Behind the scenes
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Behind the scenes

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Ryder Cup fans are decked out in patriotic style

From La Crosse, Wis., Yorkshire, England, and Scottsdale, Ariz., fans rose in the dark before a misty dawn Friday to get in line at 5 a.m. so they could ensconce themselves in a primo spot at the first tee at Hazeltine National Golf Club.

The Ryder Cup competitors from the United States and Europe wouldn't walk across the pedestrian bridge from the practice range until the start of the first group at 7:35 a.m. The gates at the club officially opened at 6:35 a.m., but 33-year-old twin sisters Kristie McKesson of Chaska and Ali Van Dalen of La Crosse managed to get in sooner.

"We were in the box and freezing at 5 a.m.," McKesson said.

Fans all over the Twin Cities rose at 3:30 a.m., many dressing head-to-toe in red, white and blue, stars and stripes, or the blue and yellow of the European Union flag. Like others, the twin sisters had purchased their outfits for the tournament.

The early arrival was worth it, everyone said, for the camaraderie, the good-spirited needling and singing between fans for each side. The super fans got their front-row seats, with braided Helga wigs on the Americans and tams on the Europeans. The Golf Channel reported the crowd to be the biggest in Ryder Cup history.

In the foggy morning, cheerful fans called out to each other, "Nice outfit," and stopped to pose for photos with each other. The fans all said the same thing about the predawn preparations: It was worth it for the one-of-a-kind, anything goes atmosphere.

"It's as loud and as obnoxious as you can get," Van Dalen said.

GALLERY: THE BEST DRESSED RYDER CUP FANS AT HAZELTINE

For all the noise, the fans know their golf protocol. The thousands gathered at the first tee and the fairway fell instantly and impeccably silent as each golfer teed-off.

Everyone was in a good mood despite the lack of sleep and activities the night before.

James Atkinson, of Yorkshire, England, arrived Thursday then stayed out with his hometown mates until 1 a.m. in Minneapolis. But they were about 20 back in line at the gates at 5 a.m. and sprinting for their seats 90 minutes later. It worked. They were in the second row, all wearing blue pants with yellow stars and yellow shirts.

"I love golf, it was definitely worth it," he said. "Walk with me, we're going to get breakfast."

That was the direction most headed, except for a posse of buddies gathered for their 10-year reunion from their graduation from Arizona State University. The four of them had bloody marys in hand at 8 a.m. and red, white and blue shirts they made themselves that said, "Arnie's Army," a reference to legendary golfer Arnold Palmer, who died Sunday.

"He's just an amazing guy so we've got to pay homage to that," said Cory Lehrman of Denver. Lehrman's a Minnesota native so he and his pals stayed with his mom in Minneapolis.

The crew may have been wearing the best pants on the course, ordered from Loudmouth Golf. The U.S. Constitution was written in white or blue script all over, but one leg was red and white striped while the other was blue. One friend bought the knickers version.

"For $135, they better be comfortable," Dustin Hall of Nashville said of his shorter pants.

As each foursome went off from the first tee, fans were rowdy and singing. The U.S. golfers got the loudest welcomes, especially Rickie Fowler and Phil Mickelson.

After the action on the first tee ended, they were off.

"We're going to walk the course right now and check it out," Lehrman said.

Hall added, "We've got to energize the group."

Throughout the club, there were tributes to the country and Palmer, the King. Fans used Sharpies to fill two huge images of the King with memories and well wishes. Flags on the course were at half-staff. As they entered the club, fans were handed white and green buttons that read, "I am a member of Arnie's Army."

The twin sisters, who rose at 3:30 a.m. and left their one and four-month-old babies back home with their grandparents, said they had other plans before finding more action on the course.

"We've got to go pump," McKesson said. "It's time."

This article was written by Rochelle Olson from Star Tribune and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.