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Last Wednesday morning I skipped the gym so I could sit in front of my computer for close to two hours staring at a screen that pictured a couple of millionaire pro golfers and copy that read: "2020 RYDER CUP TICKET LOBBY. You are in the right place to begin the 2020 Ryder Cup ticket selection process."
Over the past two decades the Ryder Cup has become the premier event in professional golf, a biannual competition between the United States and Europe that has surpassed even the Masters in the passion it elicits from both competitors and fans.
Next year's Ryder Cup is in September at Whistling Straits, north of Sheboygan, and the U.S. captain is Madison hometown hero Steve Stricker.
I have been a golf nut most of my life and if I'm less so now, I still hoped to go. Last April, I registered for the random ticket selection process and got a email confirmation from "2020 Ryder Cup Tickets." Then, earlier this month, on Oct. 7, I got another email that read, "YOU'RE IN!"
"Congratulations, Doug," it continued. "You've been selected in the 2020 Ryder Cup ticket random selection process."
It said that in the next few days I would receive another email with my personal access code, and that the tickets would be available for purchase on Oct. 16.
I got the note with my access code and further instructions. I could sign into the virtual ticket lobby at 9 a.m. on Oct. 16. At 10 a.m. all those signed in would be assigned a place in a virtual line. W
hich put me in front of my computer last Wednesday at 9 a.m. and in the "ticket lobby." The tickets I wanted — for Friday Sept. 25, 2020, the first day of the matches — were priced at $185 each. I was buying two, as my son would be coming up from North Carolina.
"Continue to monitor this page for progress updates," the instructions read.
And then this: "Due to high demand, you are not guaranteed a chance to buy tickets."
I didn't like the sound of that, especially remembering the Oct. 7 email: "YOU'RE IN!"
Since I was being advised to keep monitoring the page, I had an hour to sit and stare until the actual ticket sale began. Funny what you think about at such times.
I have been to one previous Ryder Cup, at Medinah in Chicago in 2012. I have also been to multiple Masters, U.S. Opens and PGA Championships. And out of all of them, the Ryder Cup is the least fan-friendly when it comes to seeing the game. The crowds are enormous. Only 16 golfers are on the course at any one time — until Sunday, when there are 24. Good luck getting a close view of any of them.
Yet the Friday of the 2012 Ryder Cup was the most fun I've had at a golf tournament. The team competition creates an electric atmosphere more like a football playoff game than a golf tournament. There are raucous cheers andboos, and the golfers give as good as they get.
Another reason I wanted to go to Whistling Straits next year was to see my friend Robert Ziegelbauer, known far and wide as Ziggy. Ziggy owns a farmhouse and barn on two acres 400 feet north of the entrance to Whistling Straits. Herb Kohler owns everything else. For all the major championships at Whistling Straits dating to 2004, Ziggy has leased RV space for the week of the tournament. He's befriended the network television folks. "Everyone" drops by at some point. Phil Mickelson's parents twice stayed at Ziggy's farmhouse during the PGA. Ziggy told me last week he's leased Ryder Cup space to a group from the Arab emirate of Qatar.
Last Wednesday, at 10 a.m., a note appeared on my computer screen: "You are now in line."
And then, nothing. Twenty minutes passed. Still nothing. Thirty minutes. Forty. I'd been staring at the screen for over an hour and a half.
My mind flashed to my wife, Jeanan, who in 1992 waited in line 48 hours to buy tickets for a Genesis concert at Camp Randall. It was before she liked me. She slept on a lawn chair and brought donuts for the guys who held her place when she had to go do the morning news on NBC-15.
Last Wednesday, I needed to use the bathroom but was afraid to leave my computer screen.
Then, at 10:47, this appeared: "Match Day tickets are now sold out."
So much for Oct. 7: "YOU'RE IN!"
It could have been worse. My friend Joe Hart, a former Capital Times sports editor, got picked to give his access code, bought four tickets for Sunday's final, and at the end of the transaction was told there'd been a technical error. He, too, is ticketless.
We weren't alone. Within a few hours, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel was up with a story about disappointed and angry fans who expected to get a chance to buy tickets and didn't. Golf Digest had a similar story the next day.
The PGA of America, which runs the Ryder Cup, wasn't quite done yet.
At 3:23 p.m. Wednesday, I got a note saying verified tickets were now available at the Official 2020 Ryder Cup Ticket Exchange powered by PRIMESPORT, a secondary market. I guess somebody got to buy tickets.
The Friday tickets I wanted, which originally cost $185, were now priced at $427.50. All told, shameful.
Doug Moe is a Madison writer. Read his monthly column, Person of Interest, in Madison Magazine.
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