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Hazeltine National proves to be a natural fit for another Ryder Cup

John Shuster was an unrecognizable face in a sea of 250,000 fans who swarmed Hazeltine National Golf Club in Chaska for the 2016 Ryder Cup.

At Tuesday's presentation for the Ryder Cup's 2028 return to the Twin Cities' south suburban course, Shuster, the now-famous skip of the gold medal-winning U.S. Olympic men's curling team, was on stage and shared his views.

"The enormity of the crowd and the spirit that gathered behind the players, it was just a phenomenal environment," said Shuster, who continued a national media blitz with his teammates and coach. "And honestly, I'm not sure how you got so many people onto those grounds so quickly."

Soon after the 2016 Ryder Cup, the process moved rapidly for Hazeltine to become the first U.S. course to host the biennial tournament twice.

"In the back of our mind, we knew we had one of the most successful Ryder Cups ever -- not just from the victorious American team (17-11 over Europe) -- but from the standpoint of hospitality, the way the community supported it, the way Hazeltine supports it," said Paul Levy, president of the PGA of America. "... It has the space to do one, so we started talks not much past that event."

When Hazeltine opened in 1962, the mission was to draw championship-level events, but setting history was not on its radar.

"We never thought -- for us, it was one-and-done," said Kevin Smith, the former Twins director who managed marketing for the PGA and Ryder Cup at 2016 competition.

Long before the Ryder Cup, Hazeltine had built a reputation for being capable of hosting major championships, starting with its first big events five decades ago -- the 1966 U.S. Women's Open and the 1970 U.S. Open -- and continuing that role with the 2002 and 2009 PGA Championships. Next up: It will host the 2019 KPMG Women's PGA Championship.

The expansive grounds can accommodate hospitality for multiple corporate partners, working media members as well as big galleries and parking; this gives Hazeltine a leg up over places such as Whistling Straits Golf Course in Kohler, Wis., which will host the 2020 Ryder Cup in a vast but tighter space along the shores of Lake Michigan. (This year's Ryder Cup is in Paris in September.)

"To come to a club that has a mission of hosting major championships on a championship venue is something that we don't see almost at any other venue in the country," said Kerry Haigh, the PGA of America's chief championships officer. "That's why it's special. That's why we are coming back."

Looking back, Bob Fafinski, the president of Hazeltine, recalled two special moments two year ago. Before Saturday round, Fafinski saw two eagles soaring over Hazeltine's first tee.

"I play a lot of golf here, and I've never had eagles circle when I tee off," he said. "It couldn't have been scripted any better."

Then on Sunday, Fafinski enjoyed how the American flag dropped off the clubhouse's clock tower when the U.S. team won. "One of our members came up with this idea, and we implemented it sort of at the end of the planning process," Fafinski said. "It was pretty emotional for the members. We had worked for four years to put on a good show."

Some other Ryder Cup memories were conjured when Patrick Reed won the Masters on Sunday. He had cemented his title as Captain America during the U.S. win in Minnesota two years ago.

"I get goosebumps watching Captain America do that again," Levy said. "How cool was it to see him? Could you just picture him this weekend being back here playing in the Ryder Cup?"

After a dramatic highlight video of the 2016 Ryder Cup was shown during Tuesday's presentation, Tyler George, the vice skip of the Olympic curling team, grew a bit restless on stage.

"We've got to wait another 10 years for that?" he said. "Whew."

This article is written by Andy Greder from St. Paul Pioneer Press and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.