By Greg Ceilley
HAVEN – Jason Mengel has been waiting.
“I’m absolutely excited,” the director of this year’s Ryder Cup said. “I’m a little emotional because it’s been a long journey over the past year for all of us and we now have the Ryder Cup to look forward to this September, and it’s the light at the end of a long, dark tunnel.”
The men’s golf matches between Team USA and Team Europe will be held Sept. 24-26 on the Straits Course at the Whistling Straits venue. The Straits Course was the site of three PGA Championships and one U.S. Senior Open.
Ryder Cup officials are hopeful fans will be allowed to attend the event.
“It’s certainly our hope and our goal to have a fully-attended Ryder Cup event. Hopefully things will continue to improve to allow that to happen,” Mengel said.
Tickets for the event are sold out, but Mengel said there are a limited number of hospitality offerings still available – only for the practice rounds Sept. 22-23, and the opening ceremonies on Sept. 23. Anyone interested in hospitality opportunities should visit rydercup.com.
“If any potential spectators are looking for tickets, check out our official ticket exchange, powered by PrimeSport,” said Mengel.
Most of the infrastructure for the event was completed over the past two years, including spectator enhancement (widening walkways and adding stadium seating-like areas) and preparing the ground for the main entrance by the south parking lot.
“We laid a large majority of the gravel and we made some updates to the main entrance area (before this year). Lots of logistical aspects that had been put in place remained through the winter, so we’re definitely maybe a little bit ahead with that additional year of planning,” Mengel said. “The golf course itself is great but we did work in collaboration with Kohler (Co., which owns Whistling Straits) on a number of enhancements outside the ropes.
“We expanded some of the spectator walkways, created some new access points to the front nine and softened some of the moundings in areas to really create more opportunities for spectators to have a great view of the action and the ability for the spectators to navigate property with the new access points from the main entrance area to the golf course, particularly to the front nine. We’re in a good position with the work that’s been done the last couple years (in making the course easier for the fans to navigate).”.
Mengel added most of the heavy lifting for the preparation for the parking lots has been done and some touch up and maintenance still needs to be done. He’s pleased with the progress of work that’s needed to be ready for the Ryder Cup.
“So far, so good,” he said. “The weather has been great this spring, so the golf course is looking fantastic. We’ve definitely benefited from Mother Nature being cooperative so far. Hopefully that will stay the course and allow the construction to proceed with little difficulty.”
Construction for such facilities as the Ryder Cup village, grandstands, hospitality chalets on the course and the media center were scheduled to begin at the end of June.
“If all things go according to plan we’ll open for the Ryder Cup grand opening, which is advance week of the Ryder Cup,” Mengel said.
The pre-sale advance week is Sept. 17-19.
“At this point we’re focused on building out the Ryder Cup stadium if you will. It’s going to take the better part of the next four months (starting in late May) to construct over 1 million square feet of temporary flooring,” Mengel pointed out.
He is very pleased with how well the sales of corporate hospitality offerings through suites and chalets went for the event. Suites and chalets will be located on the course and adjacent to the course.
“Essentially we’re back to basically where we were pre-postponement (for the corporate sales) which is an amazing feat. It really shows the optimism and excitement the corporate community has for the Ryder Cup,” said Mengel. “Working with the Kohler Co., the state, the county, the Town of Mosel — everyone really has been involved to pull off an event of this magnitude.
“Between the PGA of America and the Kohler Co., we have the same goal to put on the best Ryder Cup in history and hand it off back to the Europeans (for the 2023 Ryder Cup in Rome, Italy) better than we found it and certainly have the area shine on the world stage. The Ryder Cup in Paris was great, so we have a lot of positive momentum to build on.”
Mengel anticipates about a $135 million positive economic impact on the region, assuming it’s a fully-attended event and based on recent historical, domestic Ryder Cups.
The economic impact doesn’t include the exposure that Wisconsin golf tourism will receive from the world-wide TV coverage of the event.
“I think people from around the world are going to want to make a trip here to play Destination Kohler courses,” said Mengel.
He said about 4,000 volunteers will be used at the Ryder Cup. Volunteer positions for the event have been filled since mid-2019.
Mengel said there are still fund-raising opportunities available with the concessionaire and services provider which partners with charitable organizations. These organizations may email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The qualifying process for Team USA will run through the PGA Tour’s BMW Championship, held Aug. 26-29, for the six automatic qualifiers.
Team captain Steve Stricker, a Wisconsin native, will make his six picks after the Tour Championship to be held Sept. 2-5. The European team’s qualifying process runs through the European Tour Championship Sept. 9-12 which will determine nine players, with team captain Padraig Harrington’s three picks shortly thereafter.
Europe defeated Team USA in the 2018 Ryder Cup, 17½ points to 10½.