Eiffel Tower hats, golf ‘fashion’ and clubhouse fish: the worst of the Ryder Cup

Eiffel Tower hats, golf ‘fashion’ and clubhouse fish: the worst of the Ryder Cup

Some things are more traditional than others when it comes to the 41st match-up, but all are likely to have a place at Hazeltine in Minnesota this weekend

The vice-captain

The first thing that happened at the inaugural Ryder Cup in 1927 was the team captains played each other. Back then there was no doubting the importance of the captain, leaders on and off the course. But since 1963, when Arnold Palmer became the last to also wield his clubs, the role has become partly tactical, partly motivational and largely about turning up to press conferences and flirting with sponsors. Perhaps it was because the captains started to feel a little unimportant that the role of vice-captain was invented, because only exceedingly important people have multiple assistants. Over the first couple of days each match will get its own vice-captain, leaving one left over whose job is, in the words of the official website, to dispense advice and provide assurance to the quartet of players omitted. He is, essentially, vicecaptain of getting the pints in. This is not an actual job.

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Another relatively new innovation, since 2012 ambassadors have blossomed like so many azaleas at Augusta National. This years roster includes Peter Schmeichel, Kevin Pietersen and Niall Horan from One Direction. The Ryder Cup is the most famous event in golf; while the active involvement of 23-year-old pop stars may open it up to a new demographic albeit one whose interest is unlikely to be sustained once the likes of Sam Torrance become involved it is hard to see how it can possibly benefit from an association with 52-year-old Danish former goalkeepers. Seeing guys who fight against each other on a weekly basis being best friends for a week, its great to see, Horan says. I can understand from being in a band, the brotherhood, the friendship. Horans band are on an extended break amid rumours of fractured relationships, while Horan has declared his need to go away, become a mad old recluse, then come back again with a giant beard, perhaps explaining his willingness to spend time with Darren Clarke.

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Bill Murray, Huey Lewis, Niall Horan and Paul OConnell: giving it some Ryder Cup. Photograph: ddp USA/Rex/Shutterstock

The fashion

Team captains are responsible for choosing the uniforms their team will wear, a tradition that continues despite Ben Crenshaws infamously hideous design for the final day of the 1999 Ryder Cup that featured photographs of past victorious USA teams and which Tiger Woods declared he threw into the fireplace and burned because it was so ugly. They certainly brought luck to the team, whose stunning if aggressively celebrated comeback from a 10-6 deficit on that last day was surely assisted by their opponents being paralysed by aesthetic horror.

The merchandise

Property prices may have spiralled in recent years but only at the Ryder Cup has the cost of keyrings kept pace with that of the houses for which they assist entry. In 2014 a Ryder Cup keyring, handmade in Scotland, cost 40. For a keyring. This year organisers expect to sell 100,000 hats at the rate of one every 2.4 seconds, and the online shop thus lists 77 varieties. If the organisers claim that less than 5% of what is offered in the store will be sold online is reflected in hat designs, there will be 1,540 options available for those who actually go to Hazeltine. Also available will be official Ryder Cup hockey sticks, which seems wilfully confusing.

Roll up, roll up. Photograph: Scott Halleran/PGA of America via Getty Images

The Ryder Cup Trophy Tour

If youve missed the Ryder Cup Trophy Tour, its probably because it didnt come anywhere near you. The European leg started in Northern Ireland, took in France, Germany and Italy and then left again, having visited the homelands of precisely two members of the 12-man team. The US leg was a little more extensive but still 80% of states didnt get a visit. It was, overall, like an Olympic torch relay for people who cant really be bothered organising an Olympic torch relay.


The official Ryder Cup website splits its news stories into a variety of categories. Most of them are hard to quibble with: history, behind the scenes, team, corporate partners, but then theres a section labelled trophy and hype. An event as storied and celebrated as the Ryder Cup surely needs little hyping, though the page at least allowed fans to follow the Trophy Tour as it made its way around a handful of extremely distant locations.


In 2005 Paul McGinley ended the year ranked the 21st best golfer in the world. Nine years later, as Europes team captain, he got to choose the fish for the dressing-room fish tank. This is what modern-day Ryder Cup-taincy entails. It was my idea for the fish tank and it worked great, he crowed. It was the colours I was interested in rather than the breed. It was just a little, small touch. In 2014 the European team played under a blue and yellow flag, wore blue and yellow clothes, and saw only blue and yellow fish. Buoyed by their piscine proponents, they swept to victory.

Paul McGinley was allowed to choose the Europe teams fish. Photograph: Alamy


As Horan points out, the brotherhood forged between teams of sportsmen used to competing only as individuals can be inspiring but this is a difficult path to tread. An excess of team spirit, as at Brookline in 1999, is grating but an absence of it is nearly as bad. Phil Mickelsons criticism of Tom Watson after USAs defeat in 2014 was awkward, while the fallout from Nick Faldos captaincy of Europe in 2008 was still continuing two years ago when the Englishman declared Sergio Garca arrived at Valhalla with a bad attitude and proceeded to be useless, prompting Torrance to suggest that if he wanted to find someone with no idea how to work in a team he should look in the mirror, pal.


Great Britain once competed alone in the Ryder Cup but they found life in isolation unforgiving and success hard to achieve. More recently they have discovered working together with the rest of Europe has increased their chances of making an impact on the global stage and that for all the disparate languages of their home continent there is something some kind of inherent common outlook on life that bonds its people. (This common outlook may well be the one articulated by Paul Casey in 2004, who revealed we want to beat them as badly as possible on the grounds Americans can be bloody annoying.) Of course, there are likely to be British golfers who feel frustrated when some Spaniard comes along and takes their place in the team, but blah blah Brexit yadda yadda.

Fans with funny hats

In 2008 Lee Westwood accused the USA captain, Paul Azinger, of inciting the USs shameful and abusive fans. There is something about the Ryder Cup that transforms the normally staid golf enthusiast into a screaming, baying fiend. Worse, it brings out their inner fancy-dress enthusiast, and stars-and-stripes onesies and comedy outsized Eiffel Tower-themed headgear duly abound. It is quite possibly the sight of the latter that drives people to the shop in search of more sober alternatives at the rate of one every 2.4 seconds.

Some fans, yesterday. Photograph: ddp USA/REX/Shutterstock

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/blog/2016/sep/30/funny-hats-golf-fashion-clubhouse-fish-worst-ryder-cup