The eyes of the golf world were on Whistling Straits Sunday as Team USA reclaimed the Ryder Cup in a historic victory over Europe.
The international event brought daily crowds of 45,000 spectators to the Sheboygan County course, as well as 4,000 volunteers from 47 states and 13 countries and 1,300 temporary employees.
Team USA, led by Madison-native Steve Stricker, earned a record setting total of 19 points over the three-day competition. During the trophy presentation Sunday afternoon, Stricker was emotional as he commented on what a home-state Ryder Cup victory means to him.
"This is very special, growing up a couple hours from here, being with these guys... this is a new era right here. These guys are young, they want it, they're motivated," he said, standing beside his 12-man squad, in front of thousands of rowdy fans who packed the grandstands and fairway on hole 18 donning red, white and blue.
The influx of visitors from around the world contributed to a projected $135 million economic impact on the region
, including direct and indirect spending on hotels, restaurants, transportation, and other event services. Sheboygan County alone expected to bring in about $30 million, according to Visit Sheboygan. With the entirety of Kohler Co.’s hotel properties booked by the PGA for staff and players, travelers stayed as far away as Chicago and Milwaukee to the south and Green Bay to the north.
What's more, millions of golf fans tuned in to 27 hours of television coverage, reaching 160 countries. Credentialed members of the media totaled 634, with 234 U.S. media and 104 European media on site, according to the PGA.
Much of the Ryder Cup's media coverage shone a spotlight on Kohler Co.'s top-ranked public course that CEO David Kohler described as "purpose-built for the largest championship events” during an August interview with BizTimes. That was the vision of chairman Herb Kohler and the late great golf course architect Pete Dye when designing Whistling Straits in the 1990s.
Whistling Straits has also hosted a trio of PGA Championships in 2004, 2010, 2015. But Herb Kohler, in a recent interview
with WISN 12, called the Ryder Cup "the granddaddy of golf tournaments."
With no more upcoming majors currently on the books at Whistling Straits, it's unclear how Kohler will be able to top the grandeur of the Ryder Cup. But the company has promised its run of championship golf is far from over, especially with plans for a fifth Sheboygan County course (in addition to the two at Whistling Straits and the two at Blackwolf Run in Kohler) in the works.
"Our role in the golf business is still pretty young," David Kohler said previously. "We have a long way to go. Our company is 147 years old and we’ve got a long way to go and a big future ahead of us, so we’re committed to continuing to build our legacy and our position in very unique golf destinations. That (proposed golf) course can be an exciting element when it happens."
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