Why you would love the PGA Cup
Perhaps the question I've been asked the most in my years working in the golf industry is, "What's your favorite golf event to attend?"
The answer never fails to surprise - but it's totally sincere. My favorite event in golf is the PGA Cup.
I can hear you all the way from De Vere Slaley Hall, Hexham, Northumberland, England. "The what?!"
In short, the PGA Cup is the same competition as the more heralded Ryder Cup - but the players are the top playing club professionals from each side of the pond (Team USA vs. a team from Great Britain & Ireland). Like the Ryder Cup, the competition is jointly managed by The PGA of America and a European partner (in this case, The PGA). It has the same five-session format (two foursomes, two four-balls and a singles match) and, though certainly less fanfare, it has every bit of the passion, enthusiasm, intensity and camaraderie of its more celebrated sibling event.
So now you're thinking, "You're just saying this because you work for the PGA."
Well, keep in mind The PGA of America puts on many great championships. I'm not sure they'd love me ranking one above any other (and hey, these include one of golf's four majors - the PGA Championship, the most prestigious major in senior golf (Senior PGA Championship), the PGA Professional National Championship and yes, the Ryder Cup). But if I had to choose one event to attend, to witness and enjoy and be a part of? Well, I'm here in the UK this week for a reason.
So this brings us to "Why? What's makes this event so great and why should I (the golf fan) care?"
In addition to what I mentioned earlier (the very real intensity, drama, passion, etc.), there are other reasons the PGA Cup has always resonated within me.
These players have so much talent (every member of the U.S. team has played in at least one major championship and the GB&I team is stacked full of players that have European Tour experience) and the desire to win the Llandudno International Golf Trophy is as fierce as any trophy in golf. Yes, I said any trophy in golf. (You can read more about the storied history of the event here.)
Even more, none of these guys are in this for a paycheck (no money here) or an endorsement deal. The concept of team here really means something. These players eat together, practice together, travel together. The desire to perform for each other reaches a level I don't think I've ever seen in golf. Real tears and real emotions flow freely at the PGA Cup. Earlier this year, one of the American players - Chip Sullivan - stated after he had qualified to play in the PGA Championship that, as happy as he was, he was even more concerned about making the PGA Cup team. And the folks that know about this event never batted an eye. That's how special it is.
And there's another significant reason. It's a bit cliched, but it's really true: Patriotism.
When the Ryder Cup is played, there are many American fans that will root for a Rory McIlroy, a Graeme McDowell or an Ian Poulter over many American players. It's just fact - they have huge fan followings. But outside of the real hardcore golf fans that know of the exploits of a Mike Small or Rod Perry, for example, the golf public knows little about the individual players in the PGA Cup.
And that's OK. That's almost the beauty of it. Because none of these guys are here for individual glory. They all wear the same shirt with the same flag on it. And this is what matters to them. They want to win for themselves, each other, their captain (the ever-popular PGA Honorary President Allen Wronowski), their association and, just as importantly, the United States of America.
You can see lips quiver when the National Anthem is played. The red, white and blue will be on display here in the English countryside this week - and of course, a very proud contingent of Great Britain & Ireland fans will answer right back. I liken it to college football. You don't have to care that you don't know every player. You love the logo on the helmet more than anything (SEC fans, talking to you.) Or like the Olympics, you can watch any event and you already know what team you're going to scream your guts out for. It doesn't matter if you know the names or even the sport itself.
Finally, I've been given an unbelievable opportunity this week to do something that I'm not sure has ever been done in golf before. I've been afforded access to areas, conversations and meetings that no one outside the team (any team) has seen. I've already sat in on a rules meeting with both teams and officials and a team huddle in the USA team room. It's fascinating. Any golf fan would feel like hearing and seeing some of these things is a peek at what makes great events...great. Really great.
So my job this week is to share some of that passion - the passion of the event and my passion for the event - with you. I'll write about it on PGA.com, where we will have comprehensive coverage of course. You can also follow along for updates and special scenes via our Facebook page and Twitter account.
You may or may not feel like it's your favorite event in golf at the end of the week. But I promise you, if you give it a good chance, you'll develop an appreciation for it that you did not have - and it will take its rightful place as one of the premier international team events in the golf world.
Let's have a great week.
You can follow John Kim on Twitter at @johnkim
You can follow John Kim on Twitter at @johnkim