Despite travel headaches and COVID protocols, Ryder Cup fans from Europe are enjoying their experience at Whistling Straits

·3 min read

Before the afternoon matches at the Ryder Cup on Saturday, the crowd of overwhelmingly United States fans who filled the grandstands surrounding the first hole at Whistling Straits sang a spirited rendition of “God Bless America.”

After that song ended, the small pockets of Europe supporters tried to make their own voices heard. A song from a group of five fans decked out in blue-and-yellow suits was drowned out by taunts of “We can’t hear you!”

When the Europe group gamely responded with “Olé! Olé!” chants, they were quickly overwhelmed by the “U-S-A! U-S-A!” chorus that has become ubiquitous this weekend.

Yes, it is tough to be a fan of Europe this year and not just because the Americans raced out to big lead on the first day of the competition. The delay of the biennial event from last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic caused travel headaches for those coming from across the pond.

Chris Scott, 42, and his group of friends from college in England have been to nine Ryder Cups. The rescheduling caused two members to miss the trip to Wisconsin.

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With their sharp, blue-and-yellow suits — and “Guardians of the Cup” emblazoned on the backs — they stand out in the sea of red, white and blue. In normal years there would be a hearty back-and-forth between the two contingents, but the Europe fans are just vastly outnumbered.

“We’re doing everything we can to support Team Europe,” Scott said. “But it’s not the same when everyone else isn’t here. Feel humbled to be here, but otherwise it would be much more fun to have everyone else here.”

Scott and his group are staying in Milwaukee, adding more planning to their travel logistics.

“Three o’clock starts (in the morning),” Scott said. “Pretty tiring. Endurance holiday, but it’s good fun.”

Scott said his group must pass COVID tests to return to England.

“Keeping distance from people as best as we can,” Scott said. “Can’t afford to get stuck in America.”

Mike De Sisti / Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

COVID testing kept Spain’s Beltran Usera from getting the Ryder Cup experience he wanted.

“I have international exemption because of my work,” said Usera, who is involved in banking. “I was going to come with five friends. They didn’t have authorization to come in. So I had to find new friends from Miami.”

Usera was wearing a suit tailor-made with the likenesses of himself and a friend alongside those of Spanish golfing legends Sergio Garcia, Jon Rahm and Seve Ballesteros. Usera also had the Spanish flag tied around his neck.

“It’s so sad because there are no Europeans,” he said.

Usera missed the opening shots on Friday because he had to get a PCR test in Sheboygan. He’s traveling to Brazil on Monday.

It is much easier getting to and from Whistling Straits if you are an Europe fan already in the United States.

Mike De Sisti / Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

John Kelly, originally from Dublin, lives in San Francisco and made the spontaneous decision to attend with his group of four other golf-mad Irish friends in their 30s.

“We were in a bar last Saturday and we were talking about Shane Lowry getting picked (by Europe captain Padraig Harrington),” Kelly said. “And we just looked online and saw tickets were available. The next day we all met up and booked tickets and accommodations and flights.”

They wanted to buy official Europe gear but didn’t have enough time to wait for the shipping. So the friends improvised by buying blue suits and ironing on yellow stars and the Team Europe crest.

“Europeans, there’s not many of us,” Kelly said. “There’s a lot of Irish jerseys. You can kind of spot everybody and group together.”

Contact Ben Steele at (414) 224-2676 or bmsteele@gannett.com. Follow him on Twitter at @BenSteeleMJS or Instagram at @bensteele_mjs