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updated: 9/30/2012 11:28 AM

Joining a half billion people for Ryder Cup ride

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Official item from the DuPage County editor's news budget for the editions of Friday, Sept. 28:


ALL ZONES: All the pomp of the opening ceremonies for the Ryder Cup before the real tournament begins on Friday. REPORTER: MISTRETTA; EDITOR: COPYDESK

It prompted this reply from a reporter in another office:

"OMG, you mean this Ryder thing hasn't even really started?"

I shared this story Friday morning with my wife, a non-golfer who has thanked me repeatedly for not forcing her to take up the game.

She laughed but quickly added, "This is like hosting the Olympics in our backyard; it's the Olympics of golf."

I also asked our sports guys covering the spectacle at Medinah Country Club for some perspective. This is what columnist Barry Rozner had to say:

"Having 35,000 people for practice rounds is staggering, but golf fans don't need anyone to tell them that this is the biggest event they will ever get a chance to see," he said. "It's truly once in a lifetime, as Chicago will not get another chance like this for many, many decades."

City Editor Bob Smith, often my touchstone for the everyman view on a vast array of topics, struck me as somewhat bemused, bewildered and amazed by the spectacle. He readily admitted he didn't have a clue how the competition worked. I fascinated him with an explanation of how the opening day foursomes competition works and all the angst that ensues because the two teammates playing alternate shots have to use the same golf ball. Bob had been hearing the frequent updates on the radio on how competitors -- including Tiger Woods -- were so uptight that nervous duck hooks were a common sight off the first tee Friday. Bob, of course, had an excellent solution for those first-tee jitters: Put an American and European comedian with every foursome to loosen the tension. He suggested Bill Murray and Mr. Bean.

I think our headline on the front of Friday's Sports section "wraparound" put the matter into its proper context: "Fear not, gentlemen, only a half billion people are watching you."

And, as every weekend hacker knows, there's no tougher shot than the one off the first tee, especially if a few other foursomes are standing around watching. So imagine thousands of raucous fans packing the stands chanting, "USA, USA, USA," while the Europeans in the crowd offer the token resistance. The scene is unlike any other, "and it didn't disappoint," said Mike Spellman, the sports writer who has provided perhaps the most stories among the many who have produced our Ryder Cup coverage.

And the staff member who expressed some incredulity that the tournament was just getting officially started Friday, frankly, was making an unspoken statement on what a big deal we've made out of the Ryder Cup. Our sports coverage goes back more than a year, and since Aug. 21 we've been offering weekly Page 1 enterprise stories in our main news section -- stories that have tried to capture the essence of the event's impact on our suburbs. We've talked to the people who have rented out their homes to Ryder Cup guests, detailed how the suburbs battle for the out-of-towners' entertainment dollar, written about the scores of locals who have signed on as volunteers to get a glimpse of the action, interviewed the Medinah chef charged with providing food for 18,000 golfers and other dignitaries over the course of the tournament (and passed along a recipe in our food section), and, of course, we took a look at the economic impact of the Ryder Cup on the region. It's staggering: About $130 million, including $80 million for DuPage County alone. In the true spirit of Ryder Cup hype, a DuPage official pointed out to business writer Anna Kukec in today's editions, after appearing on the world stage, the county might be in line to be a destination for businesses to hold a global meeting or relocate a global headquarters.

Far be it from the Daily Herald not to join along. After all, pulling out the stops is what the local newspaper does when the Olympics of golf lands in its backyard.

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