HEXHAM, England – Six years ago, I attended my first PGA Cup matches at Reynolds Plantation and watched in awe at the celebration and emotion of this event; with the Opening and Closing ceremonies, the excitement, the intensity, and the drama that was every bit as compelling as I'd seen at even a Ryder Cup. It made more than an impression on me. I realized quickly that I would get a chance to captain a team one day and I wanted to do everything I could to make sure I'd be a captain worthy of this team and this event. So yes, you could say I've been looking forward to this moment for a long time.
And as I have been so privileged to take part and get an up-close view of how other captains – from two more PGA Cups and three Ryder Cups – have prepared their teams and employed their strategies, I've certainly been taking some notes along the way preparing for this week. So now it's here and I can tell you all: Our team is ready and loaded for bear. We will represent ourselves, our families, our members and students back home, The PGA of America and the United States of America with dignity, class and some really great golf.
My role as captain can be surmised in one phrase: Do everything to the best of my ability to prepare this team to win. And I've been extremely fortunate to have such incredible support from my lovely wife Gail, the staff at The PGA of America and the stroke of really good fortune to have a team of incredible stars.
In January of this year at the PGA Show in Orlando, Susan Martin of The PGA of America said to me, "Captain, we need to start looking at uniforms for the PGA Cup team." As a PGA officer for six years, I was used to titles including "President" – but "Captain," wow, that was special.
And from that moment – from researching how to help the team adjust to a multi-hour time difference, and how to deal with travel issues, to finding the proper menu of food, to selecting uniforms and – most of all – studying strengths and weaknesses of players to come up with pairings and formats that suit them best, I can sincerely state that being captain is more than a role, it's a passion. Win, lose or draw, this has been one of the most cherished experiences of my life.
Now our record in the PGA Cup is impressive – but the most important one right now is the one that starts Friday and the score is 0-0. As good as our team is; we're the ones that have to deal with travel hiccups (and we've had our share), a course that no one on the team had seen until this week, jet lag and missing friends and family back home.
And most of all, the GB&I team has a roster of ridiculously good players. Virtually all of them have played on different professional tours, many have impressive records in major championships and national championships. Slaley Hall's Hunting Course is a course they've all played numerous times. In short, they are fielding one of the best teams I've ever seen in these matches. I'll go ahead and say it: on paper, Team USA is the underdog. And I'm okay with that.
But as I told the team tonight, quoting one of my favorite movies ("Rudy") – "Gentlemen, the game is in your hands now." And there is not a finer group of men in which I'd entrust our chances to retain the Llandudno International Trophy. We are going to play with pride, with passion and with one singular goal: Win!
On paper, we have a tall mountain to climb. But we have more heart as a team than I can possibly describe and we're going to use that to play the best golf of our collective lives. It's been an honor to get the team here and ready to play. As captain, I'm anxious, I'm nervous and I'm excited. But you know what? I'm also confident and relaxed because I know we are ready.
Keep up with our team this week. Our friends across the pond had built up some momentum with wins in the most recent Ryder Cups and this year's Solheim Cup. But that pendulum has swung and I watched with great enthusiasm as we brought home the Walker Cup a few weeks ago. And earlier today, Team USA Ryder Cup Captain Tom Watson called our PGA Cup team to wish them well. I told him we'd get him the ball rolling for his captaincy. He was very appreciative and gracious.
So that's enough writing for tonight – I'm going to try and get some rest (maybe too excited to sleep?) before our first session starts at 7:30 a.m. Friday. I hope you give this team the support and encouragement they deserve. I can promise they will return it with effort and pride the likes you've not seen before.