2016-09-28 00:23:06
Special Report: Ryder Cup: Rival Ryder Cup Fans and Their Swinging Serenades

00:23, September 28 357 0

With another Ryder Cup about to begin this week, it is time to forget the lyrics of a classic song like “Hey Jude” and learn the lyrics you will need at Hazeltine National Golf Club in Minnesota: “Hey Lee / Your short game’s good / but your long game / is even better.”

This ode to Lee Westwood, one of the European team’s longtime stars, is the work of an a cappella group largely composed of former University of Nottingham students who are now in middle age. Calling themselves the Guardians of the Cup, they dress up in yellow and blue costumes to serenade Europe’s finest golfers on the first tee during the event.

At Hazeltine, they will have considerable competition in the golf-glee-club department. An American cheer squad, called the American Marshals and inspired by the Guardians, will be doing its own serenading at the first tee, with its focus on the United States team.

The Guardians will sing about Martin Kaymer to the tune of Culture Club’s 1980s hit “Karma Chameleon” (“Kaymer, Kaymer, Kaymer, Kaymer, Kaymer Chameleon”). The more earnest Marshals might counter with “Take Me Home, Ryder Cup,” set to John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads.”

With Hazeltine only 20 miles or so southwest of Minneapolis, the Guardians will tee up some Prince (“Could his be the most beautiful swing in the world? He’s the reason that God gave us golf, Rory Mc-Il-roy”). The Marshals might respond with “God Bless America.”

Consider this a cup within the Cup, and it will not be contested solely in the grandstand. The two groups will engage in some match-play golf of their own at nearby Medina Golf and Country Club on Thursday, shortly before the real Ryder Cup opening ceremony.

“We’re hoping we’ll get at least one victory out of the two competitions,” Jonathan Westlake, one of the Guardians, said last week.

Singing in the stands at sporting events is mainstream behavior — any major soccer match in Europe is evidence of that. But singing and the conservative game of golf are stranger bedfellows.

“We’d go to football or cricket matches,” said Teddy Shuttleworth, 39, one of the Guardians’ founding members. “And the one thing we thought with golf that was missing a little bit was you sit on the first tee at the Ryder Cup and you can feel this extraordinary excitement, a frisson of anticipation for the first tee shot, but there’s no way of releasing it.”

So as they sat at the first tee at the Ryder Cup in 2006, at the K Club in Ireland, Shuttleworth and friends came up with their first witty little ditty.

“Just a couple of lines, and off the back of it, you could really feel this huge release of energy, of people just wanting something to laugh at and cheer about and all the rest of it,” he said. “I guess it’s there that the penny dropped. So we made another song and got a good reaction and thought, ‘For the next Ryder Cup, why don’t we write a song or two and take it with us?’ And then we started trying to identify ourselves a bit by putting on the stupid costumes.”

Ten years after the K Club, the Guardians are up to 17 songs for this Ryder Cup and are about to introduce a website, complete with lyrics. They recently recorded videos (soon to be posted) of this year’s songs, one about Europe’s captain, Darren Clarke, and others conceived for his 12 players and multiple vice captains.

“The team is chock-full of rookies, so it’s been a lot of work with the new songs to write,” Shuttleworth said.

The camera equipment for the shoot was provided by a travel company, and the Guardians’ shoes this year have been provided by a golf footwear company.

The operation, in short, is getting slicker. The Marshals already have a website and will have 13 prime seats reserved in the front row at the first tee. The seating reserved for the Guardians will be a bit farther away from the players.

“It happens once every two years, so you save up and empty your wallet,” Shuttleworth said.

Eight Guardians plan to make the trip to Hazeltine. The 13 Marshals get to perform at home: All are from Minnesota, said Cal Franklin, their captain and one of their founders.

On average, they are about a decade older than the Guardians. Franklin got the idea for the Marshals when he and some friends, including the former Minnesota Timberwolves coach Flip Saunders, attended the Ryder Cup at Valhalla in Kentucky in 2008 and realized that the Europeans, even on the road, were doing a much livelier job of creating original content.

“They beat us to the punch,” Franklin said in an interview last week.

The Marshals opted for purple and yellow Helga hats with horns and braids in honor of the Minnesota Vikings. They have traveled to every Ryder Cup since Valhalla in 2008.

Although the hats and braids remain this year, there is a new shoulder patch honoring Saunders, who died last year, and the group has made some changes after consultation with the P.G.A. of America, which will run this Ryder Cup.

“The P.G.A. wanted us to basically transform from the Vikings Ryder Cup to the U.S.A. Ryder Cup, so we changed all our gear to red, white and blue, and our horns are all custom-made red, white and blue,” Franklin said. “We have four different jerseys we switch out during the four days of the Ryder Cup.”

The Guardians typically rise long before dawn to line up at the entrance to Ryder Cup courses so they can secure a front-row spot.

“That’s the hardest part of the whole thing, to be honest,” Shuttleworth said.

In Scotland, for the final day of the 2014 Ryder Cup at Gleneagles, they were at the gates at 4:15 a.m. and entered at 6 a.m., with one of them sprinting to the first tee to get seats. Then they had five hours to wait before singles play began.

“Inevitably, you might have had a beer or two the night before, so it’s a very interesting time, those five hours,” Shuttleworth said. “You’re never quite sure whether you’re awake, asleep, drunk or whatever.”

Even when the matches are over, the doubts can linger. At Gleneagles, when Europe’s latest victory was complete, Westlake had an early flight back to London. So he decided to stay up all night rather than risk sleeping through it. He found himself at the hotel bar.

“Then in the early hours, I had an arm around my shoulder,” he said. It belonged to Jim Furyk, one of the American stars, Westlake said.

“Jim said: ‘I really like your “Hey Jude” song for Lee. Can you teach me the words?’” Westlake said. “So over a glass of fizz, I slowly taught him the words, and we marched over to Lee Westwood and his entourage and sang it to him. It must have been 3 or 4 in the morning.”