Moving tributes, excitement builds at Ryder opening ceremony
By Larry Fine
CHASKA, Minnesota (Reuters) - Moving tributes to Arnold Palmer and a celebration of sportsmanship from the Ryder Cup past highlighted Thursday's opening ceremony of the 41st edition of the match play event starting on Friday at Hazeltine.
Under blue skies and warm sunshine, Palmer, who died on Sunday aged 87, was honored in a touching video montage of his life and exploits on the golf course, and a moment of silence was observed for the man who was known simply as, 'The King'.
Thousands of fans crowded a grassy expanse in front of a stage set under a giant banner of the gold trophy donated in 1927 by Samuel Ryder as a prize for the international competition held every two years.
Before the introduction of U.S. Ryder Cup captain Davis Love III and European captain Darren Clarke and their 12-man teams, two fabled Ryder players and captains - Jack Nicklaus and Tony Jacklin - were saluted for an iconic moment of sportsmanship.
Jacklin and Nicklaus were deadlocked in 1969, as was the overall score, heading to the last hole of the closest Ryder Cup matches to date when Nicklaus conceded a two-foot par putt to Jacklin rather than make him convert in the intense pressure for what resulted in the first Ryder Cup draw, at 16-16.
After receiving a long, standing ovation, Nicklaus said: "Arnold touched every aspect of the golf world including the Ryder Cup," said Nicklaus, who called his one-time rival, "the most popular person ever to play the game.""We all feel his love and dedicate these games to his honor."
A U.S. National Guard band, big musical production numbers, stirring renditions of the anthems and a rumbling jet flyover created a festive atmosphere.