Golf: The Ryder Cup - A sporting event for those who are able to afford it

Ken Jones at the Ryder Cup

Only people who have been living in a cave without news delivery can have failed to notice the attention being paid presently to a golf match in southern Spain between millionaires representing the United States and Europe.

If the Ryder Cup does not command a great deal of interest outside the white-collar, middle class golfing community in our former transatlantic colony, it has grown into a sports event beyond anything that could have been imagined by the Hertfordshire seed merchant who put the idea forward.

We are not only talking here about an explosion of commercial activity but further proof that the best travelled sports fans are British. Apart from those who trek regularly across Europe with their football teams, there is never a shortage of support in the furthest flung cricket and rugby locations. So many British racegoers turn up annually for the Arc de Triomphe at Longchamp that Parisians are now inclined to give it a miss. Also, it doesn't require the presence of one of our own in the ring for British fight fans to show up for championship contests in Las Vegas and Atlantic City.

Wandering around Valderrama's lush contours, the language you are most likely to hear is English. A conservative estimate is that Spaniards will be outnumbered by 5-1 in the audience of 25,000. In view of the fact that there are only 110,000 registered Spanish golfers in a population of around 44m and that golf here centres on tourism, this is hardly surprising. Nevertheless, and allowing for the number of British expatriates resident in the area, it emphasises what the Ryder Cup has become for people who can afford it.

Over the past 25 years it has grown and grown. In 1975, on the way to watch Muhammad Ali take on Joe Frazier in Manila, I stopped off to take in the Ryder Cup (before the European format was adopted) at Laurel Valley near Pittsburgh.

The first day there I was driven to the course by an avid golfer who had taken a week's leave from schoolteaching to assist with the arrangements. "What is this Ryder Cup?" he asked. Expressing a view still shared by the majority of his compatriots, he added "I don't think there can be much in all this if there isn't any money at stake."

It was the Ryder Cup in which Brian Barnes twice defeated Jack Nicklaus (otherwise it was a familiar story, America defeating Great Britain and Ireland by 21-11) but even that did not greatly excite American hacks. Insularity comes into this but Pittsburgh's leading newspaper at the time, The Post Gazette, covered the match in 12 paragraphs.

As recently as 1987, when Tony Jacklin's team of Europeans defeated the US at Muirfield Village, the reaction of most Americans was "What is the Ryder Cup and why did we lose it?" The New York Times' interest was confined to a reference in the sports round-up just above results in cycling and yachting.

In 1985 reporters were not present in enough numbers to constitute an unlawful assembly. In Valderrama more than 500 media representatives work in a tent large to accommodate a medium-sized airliner.

The day after Europe's remarkable victory at Oak Hill two years ago I took a train from Rochester to Albany in the company of passengers who had travelled overnight from Chicago. On being informed of the result, they expressed little if any interest. A subsequent telephone call to Rochester confirmed that it was still awash with the celebrations of British supporters. Fly the flag and you are sure to find them. If it's not the Barmy Army, it's the monied class that has descended in droves on Valderrama.

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Bourgogne wine maker Laboure-Roi vice president Thibault Garin (L) offers the company's 2013 Beaujolais Nouveau wine to the guest in the wine spa at the Hakone Yunessun spa resort facilities in Hakone town, Kanagawa prefecture, some 100-kilometre west of Tokyo
Oscar Pistorius is led out of court in Pretoria. Pistorius received a five-year prison sentence for culpable homicide by judge Thokozile Masipais for the killing of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp
voicesThokozile Masipa simply had no choice but to jail the athlete
Arts and Entertainment
James Blunt's debut album Back to Bedlam shot him to fame in 2004

Singer says the track was 'force-fed down people's throats'

Life and Style
The Tinder app has around 10 million users worldwide

techThe original free dating app will remain the same, developers say

Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

IT Project Manager

Competitive: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Chelmsford a...

Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

IT Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

Day In a Page

Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Let's talk about loss

We need to talk about loss

Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album