Ryder Cup postponed until next year

Steve Stricker and Padraig Harrington with the Ryder Cup trophy at Whistling Straits.
Steve Stricker and Padraig Harrington with the Ryder Cup trophy at Whistling Straits.

Last updated on July 9th, 2020 at 11:01 am

The 43rd Ryder Cup, which was supposed to be held this September at Whistling Straits in Sheboygan County, has officially been rescheduled for 2021 due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

Tournament organizers PGA of America, Ryder Cup Europe and the PGA Tour announced Wednesday that the biennial men’s golf competition will take place Sept. 21 to 26, 2021 at Whistling Straits. It was originally scheduled for Sept. 22 to 27.

The Ryder Cup is a men’s professional golf competition held every other year that pits an American team against a European team and is known for its lively crowds, far more enthusiastic than at a typical golf tournament.

The decision to postpone the 2020 Ryder Cup was based on guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and in conjunction with the state of Wisconsin and Sheboygan County, in the interest of public health and safety, according to a news release.

“It became clear that as of today, our medical experts and the public authorities in Wisconsin could not give us certainty that conducting an event responsibly with thousands of spectators in September would be possible,” said Seth Waugh, chief executive officer of PGA of America. “The spectators who support both the U.S. and European sides are what make the Ryder Cup such a unique and compelling event and playing without them was not a realistic option.”

During a virtual news conference Wednesday, Waugh said the fact that one of the teams and a large percentage of the fans would have traveled internationally added another layer of complexity around hosting a safe event.

Ticket purchased for the 2020 Ryder Cup are valid for next year’s event. Refunds are also available for those unable to attend in 2021. Refunded tickets will be resold.

Rumors about the postponement had been circulating since March, but the PGA continued to deny reports and claims. The tournament had remained on schedule under a revised professional golf tournament calendar released in April.

Behind the scenes, Waugh said, the PGA was in constant talk with medical experts, local officials, Kohler Co., broadcast partners NBC, and both teams and captains about what it would take to host the tournament safely. Waugh also reached out to Mark Murphy, president and CEO of the Green Bay Packers, for additional local perspective.

It was only about a month ago that the PGA was exploring the possibility a reduced-fan format, which would have capped crowd size at approximately 10,000 people.

“We really came back to the conclusion that there was zero certainty that we could do it with fans and a huge degree of risk and local authorities were uncomfortable with even that concept,” he said. “From the beginning, everyone has agreed that a Ryder Cup with no fans is not a Ryder Cup.”

Asked about the lingering threat of the coronavirus, Waugh said the Ryder Cup would likely be canceled, not postponed again, if next year presents the same level of public health risk. However, he’s hopeful that 15 months is enough time for the world to get the pandemic under control.

“While it is disappointing that the Ryder Cup won’t be played this year, the decision to reschedule is the right thing to do under the circumstances,” said U.S. Ryder Cup captain Steve Stricker, a Madison native. “At the end of the day, we want to stage a Ryder Cup that will rival all other Ryder Cups in my home state of Wisconsin, and now we have the opportunity to showcase the event as it was meant to be seen.”

The Ryder Cup is the latest of several major golf tournaments that have been held in Wisconsin in recent years, and in particular at Kohler Co.’s Whistling Straits, which was the host course for the PGA Championship in 2004, 2010 and 2015.

“Serving as Ryder Cup host remains a great honor and wonderful opportunity to show the world that the five-star Destination Kohler resort and the State of Wisconsin are exceptional places to visit and explore,” said David Kohler, president and CEO of Kohler Co. and general chair of 43rd Ryder Cup.

“A Ryder Cup deserves fans and Kohler’s hope and intent is to welcome all attendees from near and far with gracious hospitality next year,” he said.

This year’s tournament was expected to bring 50,000 visitors to the course each day and an estimated $135 million in total economic impact to the region. Area golf clubs as early as late last year had already begun to feel that impact.

In October, Washington County’s Erin Hills, which hosted the 2017 U.S. Open, announced via social media that it was already booked for the week of the Ryder Cup. Meanwhile, tee times for that week were also filling up at Geneva National Resort & Club in Lake Geneva, and inquiries were coming in from European visitors.

The Ryder Cup is the latest large-scale, high-profile event that had been set to take place in southeastern Wisconsin during what would have been a banner year for tourism, but has now been derailed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The 2020 Democratic National Convention was postponed one month and recently restructured into a mostly virtual event that, despite being “anchored” in downtown Milwaukee, won’t make nearly the impact as originally expected.

Major annual events like Summerfest and Wisconsin State Fair have been cancelled.

With the decision to play the 2020 Ryder Cup in September 2021, all subsequent Ryder Cups after Whistling Straits will also shift to odd years: 2023 at Marco Simone Golf and Country Club (Rome, Italy); 2025 at Bethpage Black (Farmingdale, New York); 2027 at Adare Manor (County Limerick, Ireland); 2029 at Hazeltine National Golf Club (Chaska, Minnesota); 2031 in Europe (to be determined); 2033 at The Olympic Club (San Francisco); 2035 in Europe (to be determined); 2037 at Congressional Country Club (Bethesda, Maryland).

The PGA also announced the Presidents Cup, initially slated for Sept. 30 to Oct. 3, 2021, at Quail Hollow Club in Charlotte, North Carolina, will now be played September 19 to 25, 2022.

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Maredithe Meyer
Maredithe Meyer started as an intern reporter at BizTimes in summer 2015. She currently covers entertainment, sports, tourism and restaurants. In May 2017, she graduated with a journalism degree from Marquette University where she worked as an in-depth projects reporter for the Marquette Wire and Marquette Tribune.

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