Behind the scenes
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Behind the scenes

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Minnesota fans ready to embrace Ryder Cup

During his last visit to Minnesota this summer, the late golf great Arnold Palmer left Pioneer Press reporter Dave Orrick with some wise words: "Keep in mind that it's a game, and play it like a game -- with friends, and enjoy yourselves."

The spectacle that arrived in the region this week is much more than a game, of course, but the message is a good one in a world ready for a respite.

We welcome the 41st Ryder Cup, one of the world's greatest sporting events, and one that will draw worldwide attention to Minnesota as it continues through Sunday.

Palmer, a two-time Ryder Cup captain who died Sunday at age 87, was in the east metro in August to check on his design company's transformation of former 3M-owned Tartan Park golf course in Lake Elmo.

The charismatic champion will be remembered with a moment of silence during Thursday's opening ceremony at Hazeltine National Golf Club in Chaska. The competition, held every two years among the best players from the United States and Europe, will bring a quarter-million attendees from 41 countries to our state.

MORE: REMEMBERING ARNOLD PALMER

It's good for business in a region that already has the 2018 NFL Super Bowl and 2019 NCAA Final Four on its calendar and is vying to host a world's fair, with the International Expo 2023 drive led by former Secretary of State Mark Ritchie.

Such mega-events raise our profile on the world stage.

They also mean we've got "some of the best facilities in the country, if not the world," in U.S. Bank Stadium, the course at Hazeltine and our own Xcel Energy Center, Adam Johnson, vice president of marketing for Visit St. Paul, the city's convention and visitors' bureau, told us. "We've got great venues to offer," as well as "a great hospitality community to put the bids together to attract these folks."

Guests at downtown St. Paul hotels through early next week will include about 1,600 European fans, Johnson said, noting that their itineraries include a couple of private events to be held here.

He also expects St. Paul restaurants to do well evenings during the tournament, after the visitors return from their days in Chaska.

A Pioneer Press report on the dollars they bring also highlights the benefits that come with TV coverage estimated to reach more than 630 million homes in nearly 200 countries.

Palmer is credited with helping create that huge audience, and he'll be remembered for popularizing a sport that once was limited to country-club gentry.

MORE: EXPLORE HAZELTINE IN 360 STUNNING DEGREES

As players embraced golf, cities and counties, too, became involved over the years, operating courses that were considered treasured public amenities. They've been subject to scrutiny in recent years as times and tastes change. Among them, the Thompson Oaks course in West St. Paul made headlines this summer as city government considered development options in the face of debt and fewer golfers.

Other government units, including Ramsey County, have invested. Its Keller Golf Course in Maplewood reopened in 2014 after a $12.2 million renovation. In 2015, revenue at the course, according to a report by the Pioneer Press' Nick Ferraro, was $1.3 million, about $165,000 more than the budgeted amount.

Palmer is among the golf legends with ties to the historic Keller facility, having played at the St. Paul Open, a PGA Tour event held there into the 1960s.

Reflecting on the champion's final gift to Minnesota golf, a report by Sports Editor Tad Reeve says it's believed that the Royal Golf Club under construction at the former 3M course in Lake Elmo is the last in the nation credited to Palmer.

It will be a special place in a state that has long loved golf and is proud to welcome the world.

This article was from St. Paul Pioneer Press and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.