Oct. 26, 2012
By Sam Kunde
NIU Media Relations Student Assistant
The roars echoed off the stately oaks of Medinah Country Club – an edge-of-your-seat experience as Americans and Europeans fired shots for a worldwide television audience the weekend of September 28-30.
The fans fortunate enough to be on the grounds of the historic club will certainly never forget, for better or worse, the drama that unraveled during the 39th Ryder Cup. The momentum moved in and out like the tide; the pure exuberance of the Americans as Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley teamed up to extend the lead to 8-3 on Saturday, then the sinking feeling of seemingly Yankee-after-Yankee unable to close out his match on Sunday’s back nine.
Count six Huskie golfers as among these witnesses – only weren’t just witnesses, they were a part of the action. Inside the ropes, NIU men’s golfers Griffin Bauman, Bryce Emory, Kurtis Luedtke, Paul Hammerschmidt and Greg Pohlmann, along with NIU women’s golfer Allie Parthie seized a golden opportunity to serve as scorers for the event.
“You can’t really prepare yourself for being inside the ropes with tens of thousands of fans, surrounding one green, and just hearing all of them go crazy after a putt goes in – it’s unlike anything,” Hammerschmidt said. “It was like a college football game on every green.”
Even these Huskies, who have trekked across the country playing the finest courses the land has to offer, were in awe of the experience. Combine the majestic landscape of Medinah, with the highest stakes in golf, and throw in a VIP pass – memories for a lifetime.
“Going into it, I didn’t really know what to expect,” Bauman said. “I was very excited; the night before I couldn’t get any sleep. Being out there was unreal. When Team USA would make a birdie and the crowd would go nuts, it would get you pumped up as well.”
NIU’s proud representatives were part of the small entourage of officials following each group up Medinah’s fairways, shot-by-shot. The Huskies were tasked with radioing what shot was hit by each player back to the event headquarters.
“We had a little handheld computer,” Parthie explained. “As soon as the club hit the ball, we were marking what shot it was and where it was hit from for each person. For example, if Jim Furyk is hitting his shot, you are marking ‘Jim Furyk out of the rough,” so they know where it’s hit from.”
While conducting their duties to help the event’s live scoring run smoothly, the Huskies took the time to soak in all they could from the world’s top-ranked players.
“I saw how they handled the pressure, bad shots,” Emory said. “How they handled crowds. It was interesting how they could handle all that and still play great golf.”
“These guys are good” is the PGA Tour’s tagline. Though the game’s highest stakes would take their toll, the Huskies found themselves recalling that line often over the weekend. Paul Hammerschmidt had a first-hand look at Bubba Watson and Webb Simpson’s soaring drives, crisp iron shots and smooth putting strokes during Friday afternoon’s four-ball session.
“Their good shots are very similar to our good shots, and they hit bad shots just like we do,” Hammerschmidt said. “But they really capitalize when they have a chance. They fed off the energy of their partner in four-ball. They made birdie-after-birdie. They didn’t seem to have any care for what their score was; they were just out there to make birdies. That was really cool to watch, so see they had no fear of making putts.
“Watching Bubba Watson; he hits the ball different than anybody else in the world. He just hits it so far. It was really cool to watch.”
Griffin Bauman walked with the tide-turning match Saturday afternoon: Rory McIlroy and Ian Poulter against Steve Stricker and Tiger Woods. Poulter’s unfiltered intensity and terrifying glare came through stunningly for the television audience; Bauman was close enough to see the whites of the Englishman’s eyes as he willed his team to victory.
“That was an awesome match,” Bauman said. “We (the United States) were up two for most of the match, and then they came storming back. Ian Poulter made five birdies in a row to close the round. Just watching that was an awesome experience.
“I’d never been to a Ryder Cup, but I had seen them on TV. I didn’t really know what to expect. It was just awesome being so up-close to those guys and watching them play in-person. Just unbelievable.”
Memories were made at Medinah, and stories to be told for years to come. Not only how Bubba Watson energized the crowd, Ian Poulter made his stand and Martin Kaymer raised his arms after the clinching putt, but also the warm autumn days, the nationalism, and the tension you could cut with a knife. These Huskies were part of the sensation – closer than the ropes and marshals ever allow.