It is not often golf fans are afforded the opportunity to come together and support a team. However, when The Ryder Cup comes around, a unique opportunity presents itself.
From singing on the first tee to queueing in the darkness hours before the first ball is even struck, the biennial event is one not to be missed.
For many, The 2018 Ryder Cup will be their first live experience of the Europe vs USA matchup and may not know what to expect. Who better to ask about the fan experience at a Ryder Cup than the Guardians of the Cup, who have supported Europe in the grandstands both home and away.
We sat down with Teddy Shuttleworth, the man behind the Guardians, and fellow member Robert Easton to find out what makes the tournament unique for spectators.
What makes the Ryder Cup so special for a fan?
Robert Easton: “I’m willing to give a lot, because the players feel encouraged by it and they give a lot back. Golf fans are just wanting to pour this emotion out.
“All of us get dressed up and away from home, certainly at Hazeltine, we were outnumbered, but when we saw other Europeans there were plenty of hugs. The Americans are dressed up to the eyeballs. You don’t get that on a normal tour event.
“At The Ryder Cup, the players come out of their shells a bit and they celebrate every hole, because it’s matchplay. There are roars all the time and you don’t get it in any other strokeplay event. For me, that is where the massive difference is.
Teddy Shuttleworth: “I think the way the players have to fight to make the team automatically or rely on a Captain’s pick adds to that atmosphere, too. Then when you get there, the whole thing is just alive.
“The excitement and thrill of every shot is all concentrated on the first tee. That’s the one place where you can relish all that excitement. It’s a buzz and it’s difficult to put your finger on it, but it’s alive.
“It’s wild excitement about all things golf. I would put The Ryder Cup right up there with the Olympic Games and football World Cup."
How did the idea for the Guardians of the Cup come about?
TS: “It started at Nottingham University. Being hopelessly mad golf fans, you find your way into a bit of a golfing circle.
“There was no better fun than watching a Ryder Cup at university and we all had Ryder Cup backgrounds to some extent.
“Fast forwarding a little bit, we ended up at The K Club for the first time as a university group in 2006. We managed to get on the first tee and you couldn’t help but notice there was a great energy there, but no real way to release it. It was almost pent up frustration or excitement.
“When the next European one came around, which was Celtic Manor, we put on some clothes which were quite different to now, but at least we were all dressed the same way.
“We only had a couple of one liners that we’d throw out and see what would happen. The reaction was amazing and we were actually quite overwhelmed. You could sense this release of energy across the first tee.
“There were loads of laughs and “sing us another one.” It was probably at Celtic Manor where the penny really dropped and we thought ‘okay, let’s do this properly.”
Talk us through the outfits and the songs.
RE: “What Teddy does well are the outfits. They’ve changed subtly over the years. With Teddy being six foot six and us wearing these yellow hats, you can spot them from miles away.
“At Medinah, it was a sea of red from the Americans, but you could see these yellow hats from a fair distance away.
“The outfits are part of the fun of it. This is an entertainment game, so let’s make this fun. Why not try and embrace what’s happened at The Ryder Cup in more tournaments?”
TS: “You come up with a lot of rubbish songs along the way and people in the group get protective over their songs.
“They come back with this song that they’ve been agonising over for a month and then we might say ‘sorry, but it’s just not funny or it’s too long’. None of us are composers or musicians, so it’s cobbled together but it always seems to come out.
“In terms of chants, Europeans have only really been ‘Olé olé olé olé’. We thought we’d twist that slightly and turn “Olé” into “allez” with it being in France. Then we were thinking there are lots of word that rhymes with allez in French, like “risqué risqué risqué risqué” if someone tries to go over the water.
“One thing we actually learned from the French guys at Le Golf National the other week was their equivalent of “oggy oggy oggy oi oi oi” is “ziga ziga ziga aye aye aye.” We tested it; we leaned out the car window on the way back to Paris and just shouted it to people on the pavement and five or six people responded. So that type of stuff could be quite fun.
“I think more participation is absolutely a goal for France. To do that we need shorter songs, so more people can learn them.”
RE: “Protecting the voice is an interesting one. Vocal lozenges are handed out by Teddy. If we lose our voice on Saturday afternoon, and we’ve got nothing to give on Sunday, we’re half the gig.
“It’s usually a pathetic croak by Sunday. We don’t just sing on the course. We go to the beer tent as well and, at the end of the day, wherever you eat, whatever you do, people want a song. You’re just constantly belting out songs. That’s great, because obviously it’s the whole point of it.”
What is the first tee experience like?
TS: “It’s really tough because, inevitably, it’s a big party the night before and you’re never sure where you’re going to end up. You know it’s probably going to be nowhere near where you’re sleeping.
“Let’s say the gates open at 05:45 for an 08:00 tee time. To be able to get onto the first tee, let alone the front row, you have to be the first in the queue for the gates, which means you need to be there 90 minutes before the gates open. That means you’re into the back end of four or three o’clock. Doing that after a session is really tough.
“To add insult to injury, you’ve then got to wait in that queue and it’s pretty cold at that time. So, you stand there shivering a bit for about an hour or more, and then they let you through the gate. It’s invariably a run to get to wherever the first tee is.
“I remember at Medinah it was about a mile to get from the gate to the tee. We got our strongest runner and strapped him up with all his stuff and just let him go. You also give him some hats to put in his pocket and stick on the seats near to him to save it.
“Then there’s all that puffing to catch up behind him and join him as soon as we can. Then when you get there it’s still only 06:00 and the first tee time isn’t until 08:00. You’ve got a long time to sit there waiting.
“There are a lot of other people and that is the fun part in a way, because you can start the singing. Your head is in quite a mess at that point, though.
“For the Sunday singles, it’s even worse, because they don’t start until around 09:00. That means you’ve got three or four hours on the tee before anything happens, just to get those front seats.
“It’s definitely dedication and a sacrifice, but some of the funniest times are right there as you’re waiting at the gate. It is very early and everyone is a bit sleepy, so some of the conversations get quite entertaining.”
RE: “Once the first groups have gone off, you’ve got a four hour wait until the afternoon matches start.
“You have some people holding a few of the seats while the others are off trying to get around the course. Getting around the course is, again, quite difficult.
“A lot of people enjoy a photo and one of our mantras is to never deny a photo; we try to be incredibly courteous to other fans on the course. You then go back to the first tee and you’ve got a two, three or even four hour wait until the afternoon games begin.”
Do friendships and camaraderie come naturally at an event like this?
TS: “It will probably be the friendships you make along the way that will really resonate or last the distance.
“Wherever we go, we try to play golf beforehand and a local golf club near Hazeltine kindly hosted us. They were such a bunch of lovely guys. They looked after us incredibly well and we made really solid friendships there that we’ll keep running.
“You make a few more of these with each Ryder Cup. When you add all of them up you create this little family who are all Ryder Cup centric, which is brilliant and makes for some heart-warming stuff.
“Wherever we went at Hazeltine, we were hugged, offered drinks and it comes back to that “you crazy Brits” thing. They want to introduce you to their kids, want a photo and a hug. They were very welcoming and embraced us.
“For example, our Saturday night at Hazeltine was spent in the kids’ bedrooms of a family who adopted us in a bar. They said ‘look, you don’t want to go all the way back to Minneapolis then get two hours sleep and come back again. Why don’t you stay with us, we’re two minutes from the course?’
“They took us back, sat us down in their games room, filled us full of beer and then said ‘the only rooms we’ve got available are the kids’ rooms, so why don’t you sleep there?’ That’s the American hospitality we love.”
Are there any special moments that stand out to you?
TS: “The European team were kind enough to invite us back to the hotel where they were staying and join the afterparty.
“Our song for Chris Wood was ‘If you are playing Chris Wood today, you’re in for a big surprise.’ It was probably one of our funnier ones and he really took to that.
“It happened to be Danny Willett’s birthday on the Sunday, so they made him a birthday cake and they were doing a big celebration with plenty of drinks. They said sing us your Danny Willett song, which was to the tune of Don’t You Want Me by Human League.
“Danny Willett baby, Danny Willett ooooooh. You were shooting 69 when you were five years old, that much is true. But now you’re Masters champion and top ten in the world and a new dad too.”
“It was us, the players and a few of their wives, with a couple of managers as well. Apart from anything else, it was an incredible opportunity for us.
“We were singing happy birthday with Danny Willett on my lap, and we’re singing his song to him in the team room. It was proper die and go to heaven stuff.
RE: “In terms of on the course, the moment on Sunday at Medinah when the scoreboard first showed enough blue for a Team Europe victory stands out.
“The never-ending roars of U-S-A, U-S-A were replaced by an eerie hush that spread across the course in an instant. Everyone realised for the first time that something special could be about to happen.
“It was completely spine-tingling, as if Seve had somehow intervened. Then an almighty European roar went up for a Lee Westwood birdie and the magic never stopped from there. We’ll never forget that hush.”
Do you have any tips for fans going forward?
RE: “Get dressed up. Why not?
“Enjoy the whole European swing of it. Comfortable shoes are really important and bring a spare battery for your mobile phone; we all have them in our waistcoats. You’ll need lozenges for singing and sun cream, because we’re going to have amazing weather in Paris.
“Lose your inhibitions but be respectful for the golfers. Be that 13th man for the team. That’s why we do it.”
TS: “Get there early and pick a spot.
“At Le Golf National, there are a number of high peaks where you can see a number of holes. You can get the radio in your ear, but to see some of the stuff on the big screens works well. You can see it for real and then look over your shoulder and see the big screen, which is brilliant. Also, assume it’l bea longer day than you thought.
“We’d also recommend getting yourself a copy of the Guardians of the Cup songs. Learn them as if your life depended on it!”
Stay tuned for more inside access pieces on RyderCup.com over the next few weeks.