Medinah dazzles during its moment in spotlight
Team USA may have faded down the stretch, but fans and organizers of the 39th annual Ryder Cup say Medinah Country Club dazzled from start to finish.
The tournament drew roughly 40,000 spectators a day from last Tuesday through Saturday, organizers said. Nearly 50,000 people jammed the course for Sunday's historic match that saw Team Europe win 14˝ to 13˝ in the largest comeback for any Ryder Cup team playing on foreign soil.
NBC's TV ratings Sunday were up 71 percent from 2010 coverage of the Ryder in Wales, and 21 percent from 2008 in Louisville, marking the highest overnight ratings for the tournament since 1999.
In its wake, organizers say the tournament's success enhanced the prestige of Medinah Country Club, fueled the local economy and entertained countless golf fans.
Now, of course, comes the toughest part of any celebration: cleaning up. Officials say it likely will take three to six months for Medinah to fully recover from its Ryder Cup party.
Mike Scully, Medinah's director of golf for nearly a decade, said he was impressed with Course 3's showing on TV.
"Even though the team we wanted to didn't win, I think it exceeded all of our expectations," he said. "The golf course looked so beautiful on screen. The city of Chicago, DuPage County, Medinah — we all delivered the deal."
Scully was joking when he suggested the Ryder should return to Medinah every 12 years or so, because he knows full well it likely won't return for decades.
But he said Medinah staff members are pros at playing host to prestigious tournaments, such as the 1999 and 2006 PGA Championships, even if the Ryder was their biggest challenge.
Crews worked for 128 days to build the massive village of hospitality tents, parking areas and grandstands on courses 1 and 2, he said. On Monday, crews were picking up debris and starting a cleanup that will take roughly three months.
Scully said the back nine on Course 1 soon will be renovated and workers are set to begin turning soil. Course 2, which held 10,000 to 12,000 cars per day, will take about six months and "loads and loads of fertilizer" to repair.
"Medinah has to be in the rotation for a Ryder somewhere in the future," Scully said. "Medinah not only has the golf course, but the infrastructure. We can do a lot of stuff on our property that a lot of other venues can't.
"We are all very, very proud," he said. "This is another chapter in Medinah's storied history."
A boost for business
The Ryder's success and smooth sailing wasn't due only to Medinah's staff.
Roughly 4,000 volunteers from around the world worked the event through PGA of America. Lake Park High School across the street from the grounds closed for the week and provided an extra 500 helpers each day.
When the tournament got even busier than expected, school officials said volunteers offered to work longer shifts and extra days. Some new volunteers also stepped up.
"Certainly, there were challenges," Lake Park spokeswoman Jennifer Jungel said. "Thank goodness for email and voice mail, so we could keep communications going."
It was a win-win, since the school will get roughly $240,000 for providing the PGA with volunteers and space.
Although sales receipts won't be available for three months, many local businesses also benefitted. Numerous area hotels such as the Hyatt Place Chicago/Itasca sold out, and nearby restaurants like Venuti's Ristorante and Banquet Hall in Addison saw an estimated 30 percent boost in business.
"People were coming here to sit on our patios facing Lake Street and the 10th hole," said Alex Venuti of Venuti's. "I would want business like this every weekend."
Ultimately, officials project the Ryder generated an extra $80 million for DuPage County and $130 million for the Chicago region.
Growing the game
Michael Belot, this year's Ryder Cup director, said additions to tournament week at Medinah also boosted the Ryder Cup's prestige.
After Catherine Zeta-Jones acted as the Team Europe liaison at the 2010 Ryder in Wales, Team USA brought on its first celebrity liaison, Justin Timberlake.
Timberlake was part of a celebrity golf scramble Tuesday that included famous athletes such as Olympian Michael Phelps and former Chicago Bull Scottie Pippen, as well as actors George Lopez and Bill Murray. Timberlake also hosted a red-carpet gala event Wednesday at the Akoo theater in Rosemont and opening ceremonies Thursday.
Belot said the pop culture tie-in is good for the tournament and the game at large.
"Fans just loved it, it was highly covered, and it added a new dimension," Belot said. "You always want to be growing the event, and golf needs to be seen as something cool and fun to do. So when you have people like Timberlake, Bill Murray and Michael Phelps out there showing they love the game, it just broadens the appeal."
Next at Medinah?
Although fans and officials say they'd love for Medinah to play host to another tournament soon, sports journalist Len Ziehm said he thinks they may have to wait awhile.
Ziehm, who has covered professional golf for more than 40 years, said hosting the Ryder likely took a lot of patience from Medinah Country Club members.
"Hosting an event takes a lot out of a club," Ziehm said. "Its members can't play the course for weeks before such an event and for at least a few days afterward. There's cleanup involved ... and the inevitable feeling for the membership is just wanting to get back to life as usual at the club."
He doesn't think the Ryder will come back during the lifetime of today's golf fans, but speculates Medinah could see another PGA Championship in six or eight years.
"But my guess/suggestion would be that the next big event to come to Medinah should be the U.S. Amateur. It would give the club the chance to showcase the No. 1 course, which is about to undergo a major renovation from architect Tom Doak."
• Daily Herald Staff Writer Robert Sanchez and Sports Editor Tom Quinlan contributed to this report.
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