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Columnist
No golf claps here; fans share their Solheim stories
By Jim Davis | DuPage editor
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Published: 8/28/2009 12:01 AM

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As the print sponsor for the Solheim Cup, the Daily Herald prepared the Solheim Cup program, a first of its kind for us. The company also was granted numerous passes to the three-day tournament, which were offered to employees, who quickly snapped them up.

I asked those who attended to give a fan's perspective on the event. Feel free, I said, "to include anything you saw that seemed particularly noteworthy or quirky - something that might not have been chronicled on the Golf Channel or in news stories. What were you telling your family and friends about the experience? Did it live up to expectations?"

Here's what they had to say:

Free European tees!

"I was there for a practice round Tuesday with my sons, 9-year-old Zach, and 13-year-old Carson.

"There were not many obvious European fans in attendance early in the week, but the European team made an effort to convert some new ones.

"As one of the European foursomes finished up their practice round on the 18th hole, my boys and several other kids were along the rope line on the side of the green. One of the coaches came over and asked the kids if they would like a tee. So Carson and Zach got these blue team tees that say 'Europe' on them, which are pretty cool when displayed next to the $3 Solheim Cup golf ball we got in the merchandise tent."

Mike Burke, copy editor

Rump bumps and throat lumps

"The camaraderie among USA teammates was extraordinary. When they ran out of the traditional ways of celebrating each other's good shots with high fives and fist pumps they created rump bumps and hand slaps that ended in finger-rolling waterfalls. "Maybe not Miracle On Ice, but plenty of goose bumps and throat lumps for Solheim."

Jim Cook, vice president of marketing

'In complete awe'

"I've been to many golf tournaments during my career as a photographer, and almost all of them have been in a working capacity. So seeing the Solheim Cup as a fan on Sunday (having worked the tournament the previous six days) was a fantastic experience.

"First of all, seeing how well these U.S. and European women play the game is something else. And to feel the electricity and excitement of the transatlantic competition was something special. "While most of the crowd was decidedly American, hearing the European fans cheer for their players made me realize just how far some had come to watch the tournament. Since we didn't arrive very early on Sunday we were not able to secure a spot along the rope lines near any of the greens, but our plan was more about strolling the course and showing my wife and friends the course that I had become so familiar with over the past 18 months in preparation for the tournament.

"Because the Daily Herald was the print sponsor for the Solheim Cup at Rich Harvest Farms, I had the privilege of photographing the course many times before the tournament. And I also got to know the story of course owner and designer Jerry Rich and the course that is so exclusive it only has roughly 45 members. The mystique of the course and even of Mr. Rich was something I heard talked about quite a bit all over the course during tournament week. Many fans were just happy to be able to get a chance to see the course which is off limits to just about everyone on the planet.

"As we watched several groups come through the 9th hole on Sunday, I noticed Mr. Rich had come down to catch some of the action. As he stood well away from the crowded rope lines all by himself, I'm sure he must have been enjoying the fruits of his labor in trying to bring a tournament of that magnitude to Rich Harvest Farms. The funny part was that just about everyone had no idea who he was. For the most part he was able to watch in anonymity, with only the occasional person approaching him to say hello. "Solheim Cup executive director Kelly Hyne mentioned prior to the tournament that she and her staff approach the tournament as if they were building infrastructure for a small city. And having seen every part Rich Harvest Farms last week, I can attest that it is just that. I cannot begin to get my head around what it takes to put everything into place. Not only so all those involved can do their jobs, like volunteers, food service, LPGA and Ladies European Tour staff, press, etc. But to make it a fan-friendly environment as well. That part may have been a bit easier actually.

"If you're a golf fan at all, you had to appreciate Rich Harvest Farms for the course that it is. Custom built by a lifelong fan and student of the game, many holes can be played more than one way with multiple fairways and several tee boxes to spice things up. And having played the course myself, then watched the professional women play it as well, I'm in complete awe of their mastery of the game. They make it look so easy.

"And seeing the action from behind the camera and also as a fan behind the ropes, it was an experience I won't forget."

Chris Hankins, photographer

Traffic's a bummer

"My wife Nancy and I overheard folks at the next table at BallyDolyle's in Aurora Saturday night who said it took them 2.5 hours to get to and from the tournament. They said they wouldn't go to something like that again. Sunday, then It took Nancy and I an hour and a half to get home, and we live close. It took us an hour to get out of the parking lot. That's a negative, but not enough to discount trying this again some time. We'd leave earlier, or later, though.

"We liked being able to move around and walk to the different holes, tee areas. In what other sporting events can a spectator do that? The running of the bulls?"

Rick Kirby, copy editor

Peeking into a privileged world

"My husband, Dave, and I attended the Solheim on Friday. This was my second tournament, my first one being one at Kemper Lakes 5-10 years ago. I'm not into golf at all, but Dave is, so I expected to be somewhat bored but was hoping to enjoy being outside. I was wrong on the bored part, but more on that later. I have to say that I did try to play golf, years ago we went to a 9-hole course, and I was bored by No. 6. I legitimately tried it, but it's just not for me. I also think that watching golf on TV is boring - where's the action? where's the tackling? where's the defense? With all that being said, here's my story.

"It took us a while to get there because we were stuck in traffic on 56. It took us more than an hour to go approximately four miles.

"At first I was kind of bored because I couldn't get close enough/high enough to see the players. After we took a break for a bite to eat, we walked the course, and that's when I was able to get close enough to see. What a difference that made. Now when people cheered, I could see why. And, boy, did they cheer. It's my understanding that this event is like no other golf event ... no 'golf claps' here; there were loud cheers, chants and groans. I got caught up in the excitement and atmosphere. I found myself cheering like everyone else.

"The course is absolutely beautiful. Very well maintained, very prestigious, it felt like I was peeking into a privileged world.

"The biggest impression this event had on me was after we were home. Dave was flabbergasted when I asked him what channel was the Golf Channel because I wanted to catch that day's highlights and the rest of the Solheim on and off during the weekend. Then Dave nearly fell out of his chair when I asked him to pass me the Sports section of our paper. For that weekend, Dave was wondering if aliens took his wife.

"The Solheim didn't change my personal outlook on golf - it's still not for me. However, I can appreciate the expertise this game takes, the strength to drive a ball 200-plus yards, and the finesse and concentration needed to putt. After the fact, I read in our paper that the winnings for this event is $0. That made a statement to me. Each and every girl was playing for pride and the love of the game. It's a nice change."

Sherry K. LaCerra, executive secretary

A little for all ages

"I really enjoyed being able to take three generations of my family there for the first time, my 67-year-old father Rod and my 5-year-old son Matthew. My dad drove up from Monmouth where he's a retired economics professor at Monmouth College, and he called me Monday afternoon to tell him he had stopped by the college and all his friends were wide-eyed listening to him tell stories about the Solheim Cup and how lively the atmosphere was and how beautiful the course was. They had all watched on TV and loved hearing stories from someone who was there.

"And my 5-year-old son was most impressed with getting to hit chips and putts in the Fore kids area as you walked in. He also got caught up in the U-S-A chants and I have a feeling is going to be quite disappointed when we go to a 'regular' professional golf event and he learns it isn't always like this, there's usually not nearly anywhere close to this level of enthusiasm and energy in the crowd.

"I just enjoyed watching great golf shots and soaking up the excitement from the crowds, so it really was an event that had something for all ages."

John Lemon, prep sports editor