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Captains, officials praise fans, Valhalla during Closing Ceremony
By Bob Denney, The PGA of America
LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Team USA Ryder Cup captain Paul Azinger paid homage to "the 13th Man" Sunday night at Valhalla Golf Club, celebrating how invaluable the fans of Louisville, the Commonwealth of Kentucky and the rest of the country were to his 12-member team in winning back the Ryder Cup.
After an hour of revelry that included champagne showers and flag-waving on the balcony of the Valhalla clubhouse, Azinger and his team marched with their European counterparts to the Closing Ceremony on the practice range.
"You made the difference this week," said Azinger before a crowd of nearly 3,000 fans, who remained until sunset after a rousing 16 ½ to 11 ½ American victory. "We love you all."
The nine-year drought was over for the United States, and the Americans will keep possession of the most prized piece of team hardware in golf for the next two years.
"Two years ago I took this job with my hands on the wheel and smashed my foot on the pedal to the floor," said Azinger. "Once Friday arrived, I didn't know what kind of ride I would get. It turned out to be a rollercoaster. I had to trust my guys and then came through for me."
PGA of America President Brian Whitcomb presented Azinger and his team the Ryder Cup, but not before adding," There is a new generation of golf in this world."
Phil Weaver, chairman of The Professional Golfers' Association of Great Britain, praised Louisville, the state of Kentucky and Valhalla Golf Club for "finding the spirit and resolve to stage the 37th Ryder Cup to perfection. Our cup overflows with respect for these 24 golfers who produced great Ryder Cup memories."
European Ryder Cup Captain Nick Faldo praised the Valhalla Golf Club grounds crews, as did Azinger, and added, "Once they edit the highlight video of this Ryder Cup, I suspect that they will last for three days."
"I'm so proud of them," said Faldo of his team. "They fought hard, gave it their best and held their heads high."
The Closing Ceremony wasn't without its traditional passing of the host site to the next, as Wales First Minister Rhodri Morgan praised the staging of the 37th Ryder Cup in Kentucky and announced that the Celtic Manor in Newport, Wales , "seeks to cherish and burnish the true spirit of the Ryder Cup competition before we hand it back in mint condition to Medinah (Ill.) on October 3, 2010. [Medinah Country Club is the site of the 2012 Ryder Cup].
"Valhalla is going to be a very hard act to follow. The tournament has been so expertly staged by The PGA of America and embraced so warmly by the people of the Louisville area and the whole of Kentucky. We now know what we have to match. You have set the bar very high."
To make the passing of the torch official, Wales' celebrated opera singer, Bryn Terfel, sang a rousing rendition of "We'll Keep a Welcome."