While golf's most prestigious event is an avid competition for national pride, both Ryder Cup team captains emphasized friendship and respect during Thursday's opening ceremony.
The event at Medinah Country Club attracted hundreds of fans with tickets to sit in on the afternoon ceremony, throngs of fans who stood outside the gates to watch, as well as a sprinkling of celebrities like Donald Trump.
Crowds donning blue in support of Europe and red for the United States cheered on their favorite players, who were introduced by American team captain Davis Love III and European captain Jose Maria Olazabal.
After praising Medinah's “magnificent layout,” Olazabal shared thoughts on what separates the Ryder from other golf tournaments.
“It bring the best in you and you give your all,” he said. “The camaraderie of both sides is something I want to cherish forever.”
Love gave a nod to members of the U.S. military, telling fans they should honor the combat service members face and reminding them of the Ryder's emphasis on sportsmanship.
“Nobody should confuse these matches with any sort of battle except an athletic one … In this world, you need all the friends you can find,” Love said.
That did not stop the two from making a few competitive jabs, though.
“I know how much you want to win this lovely gold trophy,” Olazabal said to Love. “I can tell you we have every intention of taking it back home with us.”
Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps introduced the ceremony's co-host, Team USA Liaison Justin Timberlake. NBC sportscaster Dan Hicks joined the singer in emceeing.
The United States and Europe were both honored throughout the afternoon, with an introduction of officials from both areas, the raising of both flags, and both national anthems.
But the flavor was decidedly American, and specifically geared to showcase the Chicago region. American Idol winner Jordin Sparks sang the “Star Spangled Banner,” and fellow “American Idol” alum Joshua Ledet performed The Beatles' “Come Together” with and Soul Children of Chicago. Both earned a standing ovation.
U.S. Airforce band Hot Brass played before the event, and the Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestra accompanied several components of the ceremony. Even Love dedicated part of his speech to honoring Chicago sports teams, and Olazabal talked about the days ahead.
“Two years ago the world watched and Wales delivered, and I have no doubt that Medinah Country Club and Illinois will deliver,” Olazabal said.
Fans who were able to secure tickets inside the ceremony said it perfectly expressed the spirit of the tournament.
“It's about Europe and America coming together for fun,” said Maureen Kolar. “Playing just for the sport of it.”Copyright © 2013 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.