Ryder Shmuck

Posted on October 5, 2010

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If I was going for the best pun possible I would have titled this post Ryder Muck, but I feel more of a shmuck for “supporting” the event on the Thursday and Friday and getting to witness almost no golf whatsoever. In fact, this post was going to be about “Hunting Tiger” and how to get the World’s Greatest Golfer’s autograph, but post-purchase dissonance has been rising in me like acidic bile the morning after a big night out. So, let’s lance that boil first (maybe I should use nicer metaphors, but honestly, I’m in a bit of a foul mood) and then I’ll tell you how to get Tiger’s autograph.

My Ryder Cup Regret

I was a little giddy with excitement this time last week.  I had my tickets (for the last practice day and opening ceremony on the Thursday and the first day of competition on the Friday) and I was going to watch the Ryder Cup – what could go wrong?  Wales and its terrible weather, that’s what could go wrong…. but it started out so promisingly.

After an early train I arrived at the Celtic Manor Resort and sought out a bacon sandwich and cup of tea.   £8 later I headed towards the first tee to watch some golf.   In good Ronseal fashion everything was going “exactly as it said on the tin” and I got to glimpse all the top golfers close up.  As quickly as it started however, it finished and it became apparent that the teams were only playing half the course each – this was okay and I could even forgive them as they did have an opening ceremony to get ready for – it also gave me the opportunity to sample what else the Celtic Manor had to offer, I even saw a few famous people – it was a bit like Madame Tussauds, only moving.

Washout

The following morning under an angry sky I made my way to the course, skipping past (figuratively speaking) the tented village and its pricey bacon I headed straight onto the course to watch the action.   After seeing two matches come through the 4th green I was particularly excited to see the next match which included my new friend Tiger come through (this was after I’d captured his autograph the day before), so I waited patiently despite the pouring rain for their arrival.  Twenty minutes later it became apparent that they weren’t going to be coming onto the green any time soon as play was abandoned.

The message on the nearest Jumbotron screen said, “Find shelter on the course and avoid the tented village”.  This wasn’t a bit of consumer advice to help you avoid the highly priced bacon, but was because the tented village definitely wasn’t designed to host 40,000 spectators at the one time and was being over-run.  I headed to an on-course burger van and bought an early lunch (at 10:30am).  This wasn’t as easy as it might sound as the ground was sodden and very reminiscent of the pictures the news loves to show of Glastonbury every summer.

To cut a very lengthy story short, I waited and waited in the cold and rain for seven hours.  You know it’s not good when you seek shelter in a dirty portakabin toilet just to dry out a little and warm up.  The organisers eventually announced a re-start to the golf at 5pm (leaving about an hour of decent light for play) and I got to see a final hour-or-so of golf before it got dark.  Brilliant value for my £100 ticket.

Muddy

Hopefully the closest I'll ever get to being a refugee

The organisers put a message on their badly placed Jumbotrons stating that “as per the Ts & Cs there will be no refund, we will make an announcement after the conclusion of the tournament”.  Which was nice of them, very defensive you might think and you’d be right too – why mention terms and conditions, is that a friendly way of talking to people who put up with rubbish but stayed through the rubbish to support the teams?  Was a thank you too hard to muster?  At this point (Evening of Monday 4th October), the website currently talks of the terms and conditions but makes no mention of a solid offer.

Although hard to take you can accept these things, but then events have a habit of rubbing salt into open wounds.  The Saturday attendees got to watch my golf as well as their own (bargain!) and the Sunday attendees got a free extra day on Monday (double bargain!) and witnessed a classic Ryder Cup final day, the jammy buggers.  The people who witnessed the least golf by far and not a single conclusion to a match (i.e. me and my 40,000, mostly drunken, comrades) got nothing back.  Would it have killed them to allow Friday ticket holders in on Monday – I think not.  I saw a lot of young attendees there on the Friday – if that was their introduction to golf then I wouldn’t be surprised if they all become footballers, or worse bowlers.

So, am I miffed, what do you think?  Do I harbour a grudge against Wales, yes I do – a wet and miserable place it is too, the only good thing to emerge from Wales that I am aware of is… actually I can’t think of anything.  Do I harbour a grudge against Terry Matthews and The Celtic Manor, yes I do.  Do I have issues with the European Ryder Cup organisation, absolutely.  In fact, I am hoping to become a problem mushroom for them all.

Sometimes things don’t go to plan, but you need to act quickly and decisively.  In contrast to this, the organisers of this year’s Ryder Cup planned badly (rubbish transport to and from Newport, no provision for the very predictable rain, etc) and communicated poorly with their customers.  If I was a cynic I would think the hourly update messages which said “announcement in an hour” were designed to keep you on site buying bacon.  The organisers had the option to grasp the opportunity of an extra day’s play and reward their customers who they had let down – if they had I wouldn’t be writing about this now – but they didn’t.

Okay, so I’ve lanced that boil and I feel much better about it even though it is still a bit tender, now how did marketing knowledge get me Tiger’s autograph?

Hunting the Tiger

How do you get the autograph of the guy who doesn’t really do autographs?  I will tell you now.

Tiger

I didn’t go with the objective of getting Tiger’s autograph, but if an opportunity presents itself you’ve got to go for it (listen and learn Celtic Manor) and the opportunity presented itself on Thursday morning.

Picture the scene, it’s the tenth hole and Tiger and his playing partners are putting on the green.  There were a number of marshalls looking officious and doing their thing, I watched one in particular, an old lady and I can report that she was I’m sure invaluable to the smooth running of the event, or rather, maybe she and people like her were to blame for my experience.

She was talking enthusiastically on her walkie-talkie, here are some excerpts pretty much verbatim: “One of the players has sat on a buggy”, “He’s going the other way”, “He’s got back out the buggy”.  What she lacked in content she made up for in volume – it was quite entertaining.  The man she was reporting to walked down the line of marshalls towards her – I assume she held him in high esteem, I think she might even have fancied him.

To get an even better idea of the scene think Braveheart or Gladiator and pumping up the soldiers ahead of battle.  The head marshall, a man with a hat adorned by more badges than a Boy Scout could ever dream about walked the line of Marshalls and announced, “No Marshall shall ask any players for an autograph.  Anyone with that thought can get on the other side of the line as you are not a marshall.”  I couldn’t stop myself, I interjected, “…but you can ask them for a badge for your hat!”, well I had partaken in a pint or two by this point.  This did get a number of sniggers from those less enamoured with hat man amongst the ranks, although they were laughing through their noses, such was their fear of “Hat Marshall”, who sounds like a Texan.

Eventually the players came off the green and Tiger came close by.  In a moment of inspiration I whipped my friend’s cap off his head and shouted, “Tiger, can you sign this cap for my son, Tom Watson?” (incidentally that is my son’s name, I wasn’t lying).  Tiger turned at the name of the golfing great, Tom Watson, and took the cap and signed it.   The trouble was he continued to walk while doing it, so when he’d finished he was a few yards up the hill from me.  I clawed my way towards him like a cat falling from a tree and that in combination with Tiger chucking the cap towards me got me the cap back safely.  Of course the problem with my plan is that the autograph isn’t on my cap, but my friend’s cap.

So, what got me Tigers autograph, albeit fleetingly?  Cut-through, that’s what.  If I’d asked Tiger just for his signature I’d have had no chance, but by getting the message right, such that it got his attention I got a result  …and there was me thinking, what has marketing ever done for me?

On that positive note I’ll end – except to say.  Wales, you are a wet, miserable and backward country and if I never return it will be too soon.

Happy Tiger

A man happy in his "job"

Tiger

Tiger's autograph, honest!

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