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Cragun's 2016

Local Golf
June 23, 2017

The 2016 Ryder Cup Is Just A Memory - But Oh What A Memory!
Robert Gaston part of the Ryder Cup teardown crew.  Photo Courtesy Glen Stubbe@startribune.com.
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Robert Gaston part of the Ryder Cup teardown crew. Photo Courtesy Glen Stubbe@startribune.com.
Ryder Cup General Chairman Patrick Hunt, President of Ryder Cup France 2018 Pascal Grizot and French Federation of Golf President Jean-Lou Charon hold the honorary Silver Putter during singles matches of the 2016 Ryder Cup at Hazeltine National Golf Club
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Ryder Cup General Chairman Patrick Hunt, President of Ryder Cup France 2018 Pascal Grizot and French Federation of Golf President Jean-Lou Charon hold the honorary Silver Putter during singles matches of the 2016 Ryder Cup at Hazeltine National Golf Club
By R.J. Smiley


The smell of stale champagne lingers faintly! The wild fire, that raced across Hazeltine National Golf Club during the red hot Ryder Cup Matches, has been reduced to snow covered ashes. For most golf fans, the Ryder Cup is only a fading memory. But the 2016 Ryder Cup at Hazeltine will live forever for a variety of reasons.

Now that the dust has settled and the tired minds have cleared, Tee Times spent time with the real stars of the 2016 Ryder Cup. No not the players - (who can name 6 of the twelve players that represented Team USA?) - but the executives who worked tirelessly for years to make sure that the ball dropped exactly at midnight.

To the membership at Hazeltine and the collection of executives who produced the record setting golf event, the 2016 Ryder Cup is more than a footnote in Ryder Cup history. Yes, the weather was perfect, the crowds were huge and Team USA won. But the bold marketing approach taken by Hazeltine and the PGA has created a "new yard stick" for future Ryder Cup Matches.

As winter grudgingly passes giving birth to spring, the warming sun nourishes the maturing turf, totally replaced for the Ryder Cup. To a casual observer, Hazeltine National Golf Club will look very much as it did prior to the Ryder Cup. But, the membership, that made so many sacrifices for the Matches, knows better. "At Hazeltine our goal is to maintain a 'tournament conditioned' golf course at all times," said Patrick Hunt, Ryder Cup Tournament Chairman at Hazeltine. "With improved turf grass, the total reconstruction of the bunkers, expanded practice area and a new clubhouse, we now have a better golf course!"

Jeff Hintz, Ryder Cup Tournament Director, did such an outstanding job that he was voted Sportsman Of The Year by the Twin Cities sports community. Jeff made it look easy. His relaxed demeanor hid the organized chaos occurring constantly behind the scenes. In a recent interview with Jeff, he shared with Tee Times some the statistics from this record setting event. Take a L O N G M I N U T E to digest these records.

During Ryder Cup week 295,000 golf fans visited Hazeltine. Most parked their cars at Canterbury Park and were bused to Hazeltine by the largest fleet of buses ever assembled in Minnesota. Others drove their cars to a variety of parking lots near the golf course. The press and those who paid a premium price for tickets, including VIP parking, parked adjacent to the gate. An army of 4,000 well-trained volunteers gave freely of their time to insure a seamless performance.

Local beer vendors were all smiles as they worked dusk to dawn replacing inventories and counting their money. During the week of Ryder Cup over 600,000 cans of beer were served keeping the 745 porta-potties very busy. Each of those toilets required servicing and cleaning each day.

On the charity side, Ryder Cup donated over $3 Million to local and national charities. While donated tickets that were sold through charity raffles and auctions generated another $300,000 for the extended local community. The state of Minnesota is not a charity, but the Ryder Cup wrote a check for over $5 million for sales tax at Hazeltine. This number does not include the items purchased through off site vendors.

California Classic Tent Company, who rented the nearly 2 million square feet of hospitality tents (most with wooden floors) to the Ryder Cup, had to transport the tents to Minnesota. After the Ryder Cup, those same tents were transported to the next venue. Think of the contract labor and fuel for those trucks. On the subject of size, Ryder Cup used 80 miles of electric cable to provide electricity to the tents, scoreboards and music amplifiers. What an electric bill!

When Hintz was asked to describe his overall impression of the 2016 Ryder Cup, he summed it up in two words, "Overwhelmingly positive." He continued to praise the tireless work of the volunteers and his staff who gave their all everyday. "The event was truly a team effort. I have never worked with such a fine and dedicated group as the Committee Chairmen and the Golf Professional and Golf Course Superintendent at Hazeltine."

The Hazeltine Ryder Cup was successful in a redesign of the brand. From this Ryder Cup going forward, the event will be more of an entertainment venue. Never before has there been music on the first tee. That music was piped to the entry gates where fans felt a part of the action before they ever saw the golf course. And the color, Red, for Team USA, was everywhere. The contrast of color red, everywhere, with over 5 miles of white picket fence gave a beautiful contrast. In past Ryder Cups everything was draped in green, to blend in with trees and grass.

Hintz went on to praise the Hazeltine membership, "What a great bunch of down to earth people. Never before have I seen a pro shop that sold blue jeans. They allow jeans on the golf course. Real people!"

Patrick Hunt, Tournament Chairman, said, "The whole thing was perfect. Perfect golf course. Huge crowds. No security issues. But most of all, the thing I worried about for four years did not happen: mean Minnesota fall weather!" Hunt, who completed his term as Tournament Chairman, has moved up to the Championship Committee. He explained, "The Championship Committee, made up of past Chairmen, Club President and selected representatives of the membership, work closely with the PGA and the USGA planning future events. Those two golf organizations know Hazeltine and we know them. They know what we can do. They are well aware that we now have an even better golf course."

I asked Hunt what he learned after years of working with all the Ryder Cup people? He thought for a moment then said, "The value of relationships!"

Ryder Cup logo merchandise sales in the 46,000 square foot Pro Shop also set records. Golf fans, who purchased more than $20 million of logo merchandise, will cling to those memories for years to come. Mike Quirk, Director of Merchandising for PGA of America left no stone unturned creating unique merchandise for Minnesota golf fans, including Ryder Cup Hockey Sweaters and crystal sculptures of the Hazeltine Walking Man.

Quirk told Tee Times that most of the merchandise tent, displays, cooling equipment and cash registers will be used in Charlotte at Quail Hollow for the 2017 PGA Championship. He said, "The experience at Hazeltine was tremendous. We learned a lot and now we have set a new standard for excellence."

The once in a lifetime experience is over. The memories that could have filled a photo album have been reduced to a selected favorite. To each person who was a spectator, in person or on television, that one memory will stand out and last forever. To this golf writer, who had the privilege of reporting details of the Ryder Cup, that one memory was the Mickelson vs. Garcia Match. Never has the spirit of Ryder Cup or golf been competed at such a high level!

Note: During their three year stay in Minnesota Jeff Hintz and his family (wife, who is and occupational therapist, and their three young children) fell in love with the City of Chaska and Minnesota. Rather than pack up and move to St. Louis where Jeff's new job would have been Tournament Chairman for the 2018 PGA Championship, they decided to stay in Minnesota. Jeff assumed the role of CEO of the Minnesota Section of the PGA of America and the chapter's foundation. Jeff can be found working daily at the PGA headquarters at Bunker Hills Golf Club.






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