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Ryder Cup Should Have Been Played

By Shane Sharp, Contributor

In case you didn't notice, there was a PGA sanctioned golf event last week. The Texas Open was its name. It was played at LaCantera Resort Golf Club, in San Antonio, Texas, a wonderful golf course designed by Tom Weiskopf and Jay Morrish.

But did anyone actually care?

A slightly older, longer haired Justin Leonard repeated as champion, and won for the first time in 31 starts. A stirring story line, had not the greatest sporting event in the world been removed from the weekend's sports docket and deposited into next year.

I am probably in the minority, but as a golf writer and a lifelong fan of the game, I think the Ryder Cup should have been played at its regularly scheduled time and place this year. Professional and college football resumed play, and Major League Baseball and Barry Bond's assault on the home run record marched on.

Professional golf even marched on, albeit to the beat of a different drummer - one that fell on deaf ears.

And somewhere, hidden in some cave or tunnel in the bowels of Afghanistan, the closest thing the world has to the personification of Lucifer himself was chuckling at how his dark hand brought so many of this nation's everyday operations to a screeching halt, including the Ryder Cup.

The site of Europe and the United States playing against each other, yet rallying around each other at the Belfry in England would have been one of the most patriotic and unifying gestures that could possibly be carried out during a game.

The playing of the Ryder Cup would have been a figurative slap in the face to terrorist leader Osama bin Laden, and anyone associated with his maniacal regime.

It is hard to imagine that just two years ago, the very tournament that could have brought a big chunk of the word together almost tore it apart from a golfing standpoint.

The United States staged the biggest comeback in cup history on the final Sunday at Brookline to win the singles matches, 8 1/2 -2 1/2 , and recapture the title by one point. But the Americans angered the Europeans by running across the 17th green to celebrate Justin Leonard's 45-foot putt, as Jose Maria Olazabal was still waiting to play his shot.

The European players plotted revenge. The European fans promised a hostile environment at the Belfry. The U.S. players defended their actions. The U.S. fans promised total domination at the Belfry.

Do you think that one word of this childish pee-pee match would have made its way into the papers last week?

Instead we might have had U.S.-fan and Euro-fan standing side by side, cheering for good golf shots, not for good tabloid fodder. U.S.-fan and Euro-fan could have exchanged stories about their kids, tales from the golf course, and even traded miniature flags.

Sure, the Ryder Cup may have suffered a setback in revenue from the hundreds of American patrons not willing to chance the flight across the pond.

But who is suffering now?

This thing is far from over, but at least we are beginning to heal. The collective scab is forming and it is in large part due to the unforeseeable outpouring of patriotism and generosity from Americans and those countries that we call allies.

But it is also in large part because sports are back. For better or for worse, games - collegiate and professional - have come to define our existence in so many ways. When the Sept. 11 terrorists attacks on the New York City and Washington D.C. claimed thousands of American lives, and forever changed thousands of others, sports needed to pause and let us assess our situation, mourn, and take stock of our lives.

It is now October, and the behemoth Florida State Seminoles have fallen to the upstart North Carolina Tar Heels. The Atlanta Braves have managed to hang on to a two-game lead over the Philadelphia Phillies in the National League East race. The defending Super Bowl Champion Baltimore Ravens lost to the Cincinnati Bengals, a team written off by many experts as the worst in the league.

And we are all better people because it happened on American soil, in our backyards, and on our television in the sanctity of our own homes.

The Ryder Cup should have followed suit, because we could of used a little more healing.

For those folks that did realize that professional golf was on television last weekend, and watched the 29-year-old Leonard sink his final putt, some gratification involved.

For all the heat he has taken for being a flash-in-the-pan, Leonard has always been one of the game's most eloquent spokesmen. After his last putt fell on Sunday, the former Texas Longhorn All-American broke down in tears and let the gallery know what had really been on his mind all week.

"All of the flags, all of the patriotism you see throughout the country right now -- you didn't see that a month ago," Leonard said. "I think it's pretty special to win during this time and after what's going on and what we've all been through mentally and emotionally the last three weeks. It kind of all hit me right there on the green."

Maybe golf fans and golf writers weren't the only ones that could have used a good dose of Ryder Cup competition last weekend.

Shane SharpShane Sharp, Contributor

Shane Sharp is vice president of Buffalo Communications, a golf and lifestyle media agency. He was a writer, senior writer and managing editor of TravelGolf.com from 1997 to 2003.

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