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European Ryder Cup Team Captain Bernhard Langer holding the Ryder Cup (
European Ryder Cup Team Captain Bernhard Langer holding the Ryder Cup (

Bernhard Langer - European Team Captain for The 2004 Ryder Cup Matches

August 21, 2004

Bernhard Langer's leadership qualities never have been in doubt. Yet his modesty is such that long before he realised he would rather like to be European Ryder Cup Captain, most aficionados of the game knew that here was, perhaps, the perfect skipper.

That he has been handed this vital role sooner rather than later is further, and eloquent, testimony to the German's unique standing within a professional circuit that can judge a man harshly at times. Put simply, Langer is the professionals' professional.

"Bernhard leaves very little to chance and even the bit he does will have been carefully analysed at some point," said his long-time friend and former caddie Pete Coleman. "I have never known him not be focused and ready for whatever he is doing, wherever he is playing. He expects others to work as hard as he does but he is an instinctively fair man."

Coleman's own back carries the scars of Langer's commitment to a work ethic that might bring a donkey to its knees prematurely, for it is he who had to bear the weight not just of his employer's expectations, but of the 17 golf clubs Bernhard frequently required him to haul over 18 holes of a practice round.

Eventually he will decide on 'this' driver and 'that' putter but not before he is convinced the right choice has been made. "I don't see the point in doing anything unless you try to do it the very best that you can," said Langer. "We are very fortunate to be able to play this game for a living and I am always aware of this good fortune."

Working hard, staying focused and doing the right thing comes easily to Langer, however, for it is the way he was brought up in the village of Anhausen, a short train journey from Munich.

His father was a bricklayer, his mother a waitress, and his brother Erwin was caddieing at the local club as soon as he could. By eight years of age Bernhard, too, had caught the golfing bug.

Every day he would cycle five miles to Augsburg Golf Club where his talent for the game was first unearthed. It was here that he studied a faded sepia magazine clipping of a Jack Nicklaus instruction session, and where he earned his first few Deutschmarks.

It was a tough but loving upbringing that made Langer the man he is today. His desire for perfection is still vivid and it is this which fuels his ambition to an extent that, although now approaching middle-age, he is still comfortably within the top 100 on the Official World Golf Ranking. Two Masters Tournament victories (in 1985 and 1993) are the highlights of a CV which includes 42 European Tour titles.

Deeply religious, he lists his priorities in life as "God, then my family and then golf." It is a pecking order that reflects a man of rare judgement, sensitivity and decency, but one which should not disguise the steel within this civilised exterior.

What happens at Oakland Hills Country Club under his Captaincy remains to be seen, but be certain of one thing: if Europe win The 35th Ryder Cup Matches, Langer's eye for even the smallest detail will have played a vital part.

"I remember as a little boy, pressing my face against the sweet shop window and wishing I could go inside and buy some," he said. Now, here he is with the keys to the biggest 'sweet shop' in the game. Don't be surprised if his charges fill their pockets.

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