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updated: 9/17/2012 3:30 PM

Why Medinah and Ryder Cup are a perfect match

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  • It took more than its historic clubhouse for Medinah Country Club to land the 2012 Ryder Cup. Its rich tradition of hosting top golf events and the enthusiastic support from Medinah's members were key factors.

      It took more than its historic clubhouse for Medinah Country Club to land the 2012 Ryder Cup. Its rich tradition of hosting top golf events and the enthusiastic support from Medinah's members were key factors.
    Photo courtesy of Medinah Country Club/Evan Schill

  • Don Larson, Medinah member and general chair of the Ryder Cup, looks on as Davis Love III shows his emotions as he was introduced as captain of the U. S. Ryder Cup golf team last year. Larson's quest to help bring the Ryder Cup to Medinah began in the mid-1990s as it was preparing for the 1999 PGA Championship.

      Don Larson, Medinah member and general chair of the Ryder Cup, looks on as Davis Love III shows his emotions as he was introduced as captain of the U. S. Ryder Cup golf team last year. Larson's quest to help bring the Ryder Cup to Medinah began in the mid-1990s as it was preparing for the 1999 PGA Championship.
    Associated Press/Jim Prisching/2011 file

 
 

U.S. Opens, PGA Championships ... Medinah Country Club has been there, done that.

And done it well.

But in just over a week, all of those events will be dwarfed when the world descends on the suburbs for the biggest event in all of golf -- the 39th Ryder Cup.

And once again, the spotlight will be on Medinah, judged as one of the top 25 courses in America by Golf Digest, and one of the top 65 courses in the world according to Golf Magazine.

But it's more than just the luscious layout at Medinah that has continued to lure the biggest of the big events featuring the best of the best in the game of golf.

A lot more.

It's the infrastructure. It's the location. And perhaps most important, it's the determined Medinah membership that continues to push to host top-flight events that has led us to this point.

And leading the way has been Don Larson, Medinah's chairman for the 2012 Ryder Cup. Larson's lobbying effort of the PGA of America began in the mid-1990s, a few years before Medinah was to host the 1999 PGA Championship.

That's when Larson, Medinah's chairman for the 1999 PGA Championship, along with other club members, approached Jim Awtrey, the PGA of America president at the time, to let him know of their interest in hosting a future Ryder Cup.

"They had heard that other clubs interested in the Ryder Cup were making presentations, and the Medinah delegation wanted to know if we needed one of them," Awtrey recounted in media reports. "I said no. If we had any questions about Medinah's qualifications, we wouldn't be going there with the PGA in 1999."

On Oct. 19, 1998, the PGA of America announced that Medinah would host both the 2006 PGA Championship as well as the 2011 Ryder Cup. Because of the tragedy of Sept. 11, 2001, that year's Ryder Cup and the dates of all future matches were pushed back a year.

So what is it about Medinah that makes it so alluring to those who stage the big events?

"The great thing about Medinah is that it's been able to host major championships for many years; we've had truly great PGA Championships there in 1999 and 2006," said Kerry Haigh, the PGA of America's managing director of championships. "It's a club that relishes hosting major championships every few years.

"What did the club have to do to secure the Ryder Cup? The truth? Not a lot. They have a long-term plan to continue to host major events and they do what is required year to year to make sure they are able to do so."

For example, this year, Medinah members agreed to a paring of a five-month golf season to just 75 days as Director of Golf Course Operations Curtis Tyrrell and the staff put the finishing touches on the course leading up to the Ryder Cup.

A small price to pay for the prestige that being a member at Medinah affords.

"You don't wear a Medinah shirt on a plane or on a train where people don't say 'Oh, you belong to Medinah? And then they say, 'Oh, we'd like to come and play the No. 3 course' and you're like um ... OK (laugh)," said longtime member Bertha Broustis.

"It takes a championship golf course, a facility like Medinah, a great location and the full support of membership," Larson said. "We're probably one of the few clubs in the world that could handle a Ryder Cup."

He'll get no argument from Michael Belot, director of the 2012 Ryder Cup.

"You take the championship-style golf courses like Medinah and you need the infrastructure to support this event," Belot said. "When you go out to Medinah and you see all the tents and things -- there's not many courses that have the extra space to build giant vendor compounds and tents that are 45,000 square feet. Medinah has that space.

"And then, after that, the members are willing to be inconvenienced. It's well documented after the U.S. Open at Winged Foot, the membership turned down having another Open because they just weren't interested.

"You put those three things together and there are only a few courses that can handle it. Medinah is a phenomenal course. It's a great market, there's a supportive, huge membership -- all positive things."

While Medinah No. 3 may never crack a top 10 list of the all-time great courses such as Augusta, Oakmont or Pebble Beach, it's more than a perfect fit for an event such as the Ryder Cup.

"There are probably a few courses that come to mind where you're like 'Gosh this is a great course,' " Belot said, "but I know they couldn't fit all this.

"I think the courses that can hold these type of events are pretty well documented. You have Whistling Straits, Hazeltine, Medinah, Oakland Hills, Oak Hill, Valhalla, etc."

NBC and Golf Channel's David Feherty believes Medinah will be up to the task.

"You know, it's a good golf course. I don't think personally, you know, that it's great," he said. "But if you look at the venues that the Ryder Cup has had ... at The Belfry (2002), for instance, which was a horrible golf course to start off with, (it) improved very slightly; it was never a great golf course, but it was a tremendous venue.

"I think the crowds in Chicago will turn that golf course into something special."

The Medinah membership can't wait to find out.

"We are ready to present the Ryder Cup to the world," Larson said, "and make memories for a lifetime."

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