It was more than any one thing that made the golf tournament so special, but many agree it was the experience of a lifetime.
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"I think it was everything: The weather was just perfect, the crowds were amazing and there was the whole patriotic atmosphere of the competition with fans chanting 'USA!'" said Terrence Wittman of Roselle. "It was the best thing I ever went to in my life."
It also may be the only chance Wittman and other fans will have to see the Ryder at Medinah. The event, launched in 1927, comes to the U.S. only once every four years and had never been to Medinah before.
Wittman attended the preliminary events on Wednesday and Thursday with business clients. On Friday and Saturday he was joined by his 18-year-old son, Nicholas, who has been a caddie at Medinah for five years.
The two got up before dawn to make sure they were there for tournament highlights, such as the raucous opening tee shot by Team USA golfer Bubba Watson, who asked the crowd to make noise on Friday morning. They were also at the 18th hole Saturday when Tiger Woods missed a putt that cost Team USA a pivotal match. Wittman said his son was caught holding his head in his hands at that moment by an ESPN camera.
The highs and lows of the Ryder, which Team Europe won, were part of what made it so special, he added.
"This was the best father-son two days we've had," Wittman said.
The up-and-down nature of the competition was even tougher on Joe Lundvick, chief operating officer of Perfection Global in Elk Grove Village, and his British partner, Adam Stevenson. Both men took clients to the Ryder last week and rooted for opposing teams.
"There was a great sense of Chicago pride, having it at Medinah, which is a beautiful course that we've played before," Lundvick said. "After Saturday's round, Adam was feeling sick to his stomach. But then when Europe rallied, it was the other way around."
Still, Lundvick said the pair, their employees and their clients had a great time regardless of the outcome.
"We still have thank-yous coming in," he said.
Wittman and his son, as well as Lundvick and Stevenson, are golfers themselves who appreciate the Ryder for the sake of the sport.
Judy Farrell of Elgin said that doesn't matter.
Farrell, who is the principal's administrative assistant at Lake Park High School's East Campus, said she's never golfed before and she still "had a blast."
Farrell was one of roughly 2,750 volunteers recruited by Lake Park who worked in parking or concessions. (PGA of America also had approximately 4,000 volunteers of its own working the Ryder.) She was up at 5:30 a.m. the Tuesday before the competition to work a food stand near the 7th hole during the celebrity scramble that featured such notables as singer Justin Timberlake, actor Bill Murray, Bears kicker Robbie Gould and former Bull Scottie Pippen.
On that day, even the labor was fun, she said.
"Our rep was awesome, and he set the tone for the whole day saying, 'We are going to work, we are going to work hard, but we are here to have fun,'" Farrell said.
Like all other volunteers, Farrell received a day pass to the grounds that allowed her to watch the tournaments and practices when she wasn't working. And for that -- or even just to work concessions -- she would "do it again in a minute."
"Even when I wasn't over there, I just wanted to be over there last week," she said. "You just felt the energy.
"I hated to see it go," she added. "It was like having a wedding and all of a sudden, it's over and you're sad."