The Hacker: Story of how we won the Ryder Cup leaves me floating on air

I don't get to play against heroes very often but I recently encountered one who has a genuine claim to our admiration as the man who prevented the Ryder Cup from floating away last October.

Jim McKenzie is course director at the Celtic Manor and without his efforts Europe's spectacular victory over the United States might not have been possible – even worse, the US team could have won.

Jim's achievement in making play possible after the monsoon was recognised last weekend with the award of an MBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours List.

He didn't mention the gong when I played with him in a Ryder Cup legacy match at Royal Porthcawl a few days earlier, and only since then have I learned how close that historic event came to a sad anti-climax.

Torrential rain disrupted play from the first day and it was decided the final session of 12 singles would be moved to Monday. But on Saturday night there were still six foursome and four-ball matches unfinished.

Jim, whose staff had been toiling night and day to try to keep the course playable, met Europe's captain Colin Montgomerie on Sunday morning with the rain still hammering down and the course awash.

Monty glumly told him if there was no play that day the six matches – Europe were up in each – would be declared halved and the Americans would take a two-point lead into the singles on Monday.

Jim recruited an army of 110 staff and volunteers, including his wife and son, and gathered them together to say that not only could they ensure the Ryder Cup was played to a finish, they could help Europe win it.

"They nearly knocked me over in their rush to get out there," said Jim, who had less than 11 hours' sleep over the four days. Tons of chip bark were laid to keep the spectator areas safe, bunkers were drained and lakes of water were squeezed from the fairways and greens.

It was a minor miracle but play was possible at 1.30pm and Europe finished the day three points ahead. It was a lead the USA did their best to whittle away but finally Graeme McDowell won his match to give Europe a 141/2-131/2 victory.

Jim has recently produced the same course in excellent shape for the Wales Open under slightly different conditions – they had more rain on each of the first three days of the Ryder Cup than during the entire months of April and May this year.

Such are the vagaries of green-keeping, it is also a job in which you spend your life on a course but rarely with a club in your hand. Jim plays off nine but our match was one of the few he has played over the last year.

It was organised by Ryder Cup Europe as part of the legacy they want to leave in Wales in memory of the event and involved some of those, like Jim, who helped in its success.

The Ryder Cup team of 12 included director Richard Hills and other European Tour executives plus the Walker Cup captain Nigel Edwards and rugby legend Gareth Edwards. The home team were led by Royal Porthcawl captain and professional Peter Evans with representatives of the Welsh Assembly, Newport Council and the media, which is how I got in.

I played in the final match with David Thomas, treasurer of Royal Porthcawl, against Jim and the Celtic Manor PR man Paul Williams. It was blowing a gale with the odd squally shower and I leaned heavily on my partner. At the last we were one down and I won with a five-nett four.

That result meant the home team won the match but no one seemed interested in the result or that it was my Graeme McDowell moment. However, we had an excellent dinner.



p.corrigan@independent.co.uk

Suggested Topics
Voices
voices
News
general electionThis quiz matches undecided voters with the best party for them
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen starred in the big screen adaptation of Austen's novel in 2005
tvStar says studios are forcing actors to get buff for period roles
News
Prince William and his wife Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge show their newly-born daughter, their second child, to the media outside the Lindo Wing at St Mary's Hospital in central London, on 2 May 2015.
news
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before