Ryder fans happy to shell out hundreds at Medinah
Fans already have spent hundreds, even thousands, of dollars just to set foot inside Medinah Country Club for the 39th annual Ryder Cup tournament.
And this weekend, most will have their wallets ready to shell out hundreds more.
Golf buffs who were lucky enough to win a random drawing paid nearly $500 to be at Medinah this week. And some packages with extra perks such as hotel stays had price tags reaching nearly $3,000.
But when it's the "once-in-a-lifetime" Ryder Cup in your backyard, many fans say it's OK to keep spending $8.50 for a cheeseburger, $96 for a polo shirt or about $20 per day for parking.
Waukegan resident Dave Parske came only for Friday's matches, and the average cost to feed his group of three was close to $60. Parske said he refuses to pay inflated food prices at a typical sports match, but the Ryder is an exception.
"Money always counts," he said, "but this is a one-in-a-lifetime event."
For fans who want to be within walking distance of Medinah Country Club, several local entrepreneurs near Medinah and Irving Park Roads are selling spaces in their homes or business lots for $20.
Although fans with tickets can park for free and take a shuttle from official Ryder lots such as Arlington Park in Arlington Heights, crowds migrating up and down Medinah Road at all hours show many are willing to pay for the convenience.
But the site where visitors are most willing to spend is the merchandise tent. During busy intervals, lines just to get in and browse flow out the door. Shirts, club covers and golf balls emblazoned with the "Ryder Cup 2012: Medinah" logo line the shelves. But more ancillary merchandise also bears the Ryder seal, including playing cards, teddy bears, wine stoppers and Christmas ornaments.
And fans are buying all of it, at an average of $110 a pop, said PGA of America championship operations manager Bob Jeffery.
"This is nothing like your average PGA Championship or U.S. Open — it's much bigger," Jeffery said. "People don't get a chance to buy the Ryder logo often, and certainly not with Medinah on it, so people go crazy with it."
Jeffery said he's likely to see at least two or three transactions of $2,500 at his register alone each day. He also added that the gift shipping service is doing 10 times more business than more common golf tournaments.
A notable portion of these hefty purchases are gifts, however. Dan Scalia of Chicago came to the register with about $200 in shirts, hats, flags and more, but only two items were for him.
"Most of this swag is for work clients," he said.
But Ryder-goers have their priorities. While some off-site businesses like the makeshift parking lots and trucks selling alcohol are doing well, some say sales have been disappointing.
Richard Vrankovich of Roselle set up a kiosk selling sunglasses on Irving Park and Medinah Roads, which he often does at events like Taste of Roselle. But he said fans aren't ready to spend on merchandise before they enter the grounds.
"I thought it was going to be kick-butt, but it's not," he said. "Most are concerned to just hurry to the matches when they get here, and to hurry up and get to their vehicle or catch a cab or limo when they leave."
He added that one more business outside the grounds near his kiosk is doing well: ticket scalping. On Friday, scalpers were hawking tickets for $125 near the intersection, but Vrankovich said fans have been willing to pay much more.
"I have seen (scalpers) buy them for $50 and then turn them over for $200 to $300," he said.
• For more coverage of the Ryder Cup, visit dailyherald.com/sports/pro/rydercup
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