NEW GLARUS, Wis. — Signs are written in German and English here. The quaint streets are lined with chalets with sloping roofs, wooden balconies and carved ornaments. Red flags emblazoned with white crosses flutter in the breeze.
“Welcome to New Glarus,” beckons the roadside billboard. “America’s ‘Little Switzerland.’ ”
If there’s any locality that would be pulling for the Europeans in this week’s Ryder Cup, it would be this charming village in southern Wisconsin, a two-hour drive from the rugged and windswept fairways of Whistling Straits.
But, in a year when COVID-19 restrictions make international travel especially difficult, Little Switzerland cannot be of much help to the visitors.
“I don’t think a lot of people here will be rooting for the European team,” said Ginger Blum, tending bar at Puempel’s Olde Tavern, where the beer of choice is New Glarus Spotted Cow, an ale sold only in Wisconsin.
Unlike typical golf tournaments, the Ryder Cup is raucous and patriotic, with fans displaying their allegiances in their hats, jackets, sweatshirts and the like. Two men festooned in American flag slacks stood at the ropes along the 10th fairway during Wednesday’s practice rounds, smoking cigars and whooping it up for their favorite players.
The spectators could play a role this week in a biennial tournament in which the Americans — despite a significant advantage in average world rankings — have suffered nine losses in the last 12 meetings.
“The U.S. fans are generally very good with me and give me a lot of support,” said Englishman Lee Westwood, playing in his 11th Ryder Cup. “Probably be different this week, but I understand that. This is different this week. This is more like a football game or a basketball game where people have picked a side and you cheer for your side, which I enjoy it. That’s what the Ryder Cup is all about.”
The excitement for the tournament is palpable in Wisconsin, including in New Glarus where 57 residents — many from the public Edelweiss Chalet Country Club — are volunteering at the event. Most are working on No. 14, the northernmost hole of the links course, which is bordered by Lake Michigan.
“It’s a two-hour drive, so coming up here you’re saying, ‘Why am I doing this?’ ” said Mark Losenegger, a U.S. Air Force retiree from New Glarus. “You get here and you go, ‘All right! Let’s go!’ It’s really fun.”