Fans flock to Ryder Cup gala to see favorite celebs
Golf buffs or not, fans lined the red carpet Wednesday outside the Akoo Theater in Rosemont to get a glimpse of the stars.
The first Ryder Cup Gala to happen in the United States included appearances by famous Chicago athletes like Ernie Banks and Richard Dent, celebrities like George Lopez and Justin Timberlake, and the U.S. and European Ryder teams.
On the red carpet, celebrities signed autographs and offered insights on the tournament, which begins play Friday at Medinah Country Club.
Fans like Joliet residents Darryl Sarna and Rich Rodriguez, and Rich Appenzeller of Bartlett brought photos and memorabilia for their idols to sign — even though they admit they aren't big into golf and didn't have tickets for the $200-per-ticket gala happening inside.
Rodriguez said he thinks extra dashes of glamour, such as the gala and Tuesday's celebrity golf scramble, give the sport a softer side.
"It broadens the appeal of a sport that may seem inaccessible to many people," Rodriguez said.
Inside the theater, thousands of guests laughed and cheered during a show hosted by Timberlake, who is the official ambassador for Team USA.
The performance featured a welcome by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, as well Dent, former Blackhawk Stan Mikita, and Olympic gold medalist and Winnetka native Connor Dwyer.
The stage was designed with a nod to Medinah Country Club's Byzantine architecture, and the show worked to both celebrate golf's most prestigious event and showcase the Chicago region.
Timberlake was a hit with fans as he shared jokes about his zealotry for golf. "I consider myself a golf groupie," he said.
Timberlake, who owns Mirimichi golf course in his hometown of Tennessee, added that if there was an addiction group for golfers he would be at meetings saying, "Hi. My name is Justin. I bought a golf course."
Comedy permeated the event, with performances by Lopez, a Blues Brothers tribute, and skits by Second City. The band Chicago also performed.
The event also included the introduction of Team USA and Team Europe members, with emphasis on the sportsmanship, mutual respect and national pride that are hallmarks of the tournament.
But even those ideals, as well as the team captains, weren't spared a bit of humor at their expense. "I didn't come here to bring 'Sexyback' to golf," Timberlake said. "Frankly, I have a bad back right now. We all know that's what Davis Love, aka the Love man, does. Make sure to call him that when you see him."
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