18 Oct 17
The countdown for the 2018 Ryder Cup gained momentum this week with a series of special events and activities involving both captains that took place in France, the host nation.
Team Europe’s Thomas Bjorn, 46, has been tasked with regaining the Ryder Cup at France’s Le Golf National and he was joined by his USA counterpart Jim Furyk, 47, as part of the 2018 ‘Year to Go’ celebrations.
Their first engagement took place at a local primary school in a suburb of Paris on Monday morning.
Both met youngsters aged between nine and 10 at Ecole Robert Desnos school in Guyancourt. Pupils showcased their work as part of the Ryder Cup educational programme, which aims to introduce golf to French schoolchildren through a wide range of subjects.
The pupils greeted both team leaders with flags in support of the two continents before Bjorn and Furyk took part in a Q&A. They were presented with good luck gift boxes, while the school was given a signed souvenir Ryder Cup book.
A visit to the 2018 Ryder Cup venue, Le Golf National, followed where Bjorn and Furyk led two teams of junior golfers in a special Captain’s Challenge. Four boys and four girls from the French Golf Federation’s Elite Junior Squad joined them in a fun contest over the Albatros course.
The match saw the respective teams of two mixed foursome pairings go head-to-head through a five-hole challenge. It was watched by more than 750 local schoolchildren who were also able to learn from Bjorn and Furyk during a clinic on the practice range.
“We’re in a country where golf is not the biggest sport and the Ryder Cup doesn’t have a history,” said Bjorn, a member of three victorious teams in 1997, 2002 and 2014.
“So to bring it here and see the schools getting involved, and to watch these fantastic young players in the Challenge gives you a few goose bumps.”
On Monday evening both captains were joined by 250 guests, including Laura Flessel, the French minister of sport and the President of the 2018 Ryder Cup committee, Pascal Grizot, for a gala dinner in the Château de Versailles.
The activities continued the following morning as Bjorn and Furyk enjoyed breakfast with French president Emmanuel Macron at the Palaise de L’Eysee where he was presented with a specially produced Ryder Cup golf bag.
History was then recreated on Tuesday when Bjorn and Furyk hit golf balls off iconic Paris landmark, the Eiffel Tower, 41 years after the legendary Arnold Palmer became the first person to do so.
Both captains posed for photos and struck balls from the first floor towards the Champs de Mars emulating Palmer, the two-time Ryder Cup captain.
“It feels like we have had a long list of unique experiences these past two days, but hitting balls off the Eiffel Tower was pretty special,” Bjorn continued.
“It was an amazing experience for Jim and me. It’s going to take a while to sink in, and every time you see that photograph it will remind you. It will stick with you for the rest of your golfing career.
Furyk added: “France has really rolled out the red carpet for us, so I must thank Ryder Cup Europe and everyone involved.
“We had dinner at the Palace of Versailles last night, we had breakfast with the president this morning and now we’ve hit a golf shot from the Eiffel Tower. It’s incredible. I’m pinching myself – it seems a bit storybook, but it shows how big The Ryder Cup is and how important it is to a country like France to showcase how beautiful this country is and how wonderful Paris is.”
The PGA is a founding partner of the Ryder Cup alongside the European Tour and the PGAs of Europe. Its association with the Ryder Cup is cemented further by the PGA’s status as the trustee of the famous trophy. Abe Mitchell, one of The PGA’s most famous members, is the gilded figure depicted on top of the 17-inch trophy as a result of his friendship with Samuel Ryder, who appointed him as his personal trainer.
To find out more about the PGA’s association with the Ryder Cup click here.
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