GLENEAGLES Scotland (Reuters) - The U.S. team were widely criticized for aligning themselves with the military during the “War on the Shore” 1991 Ryder Cup but there was nothing jingoistic about current captain Tom Watson’s decision to bring two “Wounded Warriors” into his camp.
Sergeant First Class Josh Olson lost his right leg and Sergeant Noah Galloway lost his left arm above the elbow and left leg above the knee during service with the U.S. Army in Iraq but both have gone on to produce inspirational sporting performances.
So, while the Europeans were having some fun with former Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson on Tuesday evening, the visiting team had a “sobering” audience with the two injured guests.
“We had some men who suffered nearly the ultimate sacrifice for their country and for them to be able to speak to the players and caddies was a wonderful experience for everybody,” Watson told reporters on Wednesday.
“It was a special night for people. The players enjoyed the sobriety of the conversation — that we are just playing a game, and that there are people out there doing work that very few other people will do in the world. That was the message.”
Galloway, who also suffered other severe injuries and was unconscious for five days when a vehicle he was traveling in was blown up by a roadside bomb, has turned himself into a prodigious marathon runner and adventure racer.
Olson, who is still serving in the army and has undergone 25 operations since being hit by a rocket-propelled grenade in 2003, has developed into a world-class marksman and competed in the 2012 paralympics.
“It did give perspective. That was the whole reason,” said Watson. “The players asked them questions, they thanked them, but it was a very sobering experience.
“In this cauldron of pressure, it’s great to have that kind of, ‘okay, it’s not that big a deal.’
“It is The Ryder Cup, it is the event of golf. Yeah, there’s pressure there. But you look in perspective of what those men did, what other people do...
“We’re playing a game. We play a game for a living. What better thing can you do is playing a game for a living?”
Watson said he felt the meeting would certainly lift some of the pressure from his new players but accepted that once the competition gets under way on Friday it would be impossible to treat it as a fun weekend with some friends.
“It is intense, no question, it goes with the territory,” he said. “For a player, for the fans, for the captains, for the vice captains, for the press.
“People want to share this, they want to see it, they want to participate in it. When I watch the Ryder Cup on TV I am just as intense tense watching it as I was when I played it or captained it. I’ve got that same feeling inside watching it.
“The players understand that and feel it. But I think the sobering effect of last night has put them on a good even keel and I like that.”
Editing by Sudipto Ganguly