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Benjamin Hochman: St. Louis got the what? And it's when? Yes, the Presidents Cup is coming in 2030, and it's a big deal.

Benjamin Hochman, St. Louis Post-Dispatch on

Published in Golf

ST. LOUIS — At the 2030 Presidents Cup, people currently in middle school will hoist beers and cheer for golfers currently in high school, and even the sitting U.S. president, traditionally invited, could be here in St. Louis, whomever he or she or they may be.

Nine years is a long time from now — will golf carts be hovercrafts by then? — but it’s still pretty exciting that this town has been awarded the prestigious event.

The folks at Bellerive Country Club sure can woo. “The Green Monster of Ladue” has hosted grand golf events over the decades — from the 1965 U.S. Open up to the 2018 PGA Championship — and there are rumblings around the 19th hole that yet another PGA Tour event could come. But on Wednesday, the enthusiasm was for the 28-pound, 24-carat gold cup on display — and the event it represented.

Incidentally … what is the Presidents Cup?

I’d never heard of it.

But that doesn’t mean it isn’t a huge deal. And that’s the neat thing about these sporting events coming to town: You don’t have to be a golf expert (or a NASCAR expert or gymnastics expert) to be proud that St. Louis lured some big fish. To mix another sports metaphor, the phrase people kept using Wednesday at Bellerive was that St. Louis “punches above its weight class.” I like that. St. Louis is strong. St. Louis is enticing. St. Louis maximizes its means. St. Louis makes it happen. And whether it’s Bellerive or the Sports Commission or City Hall, St. Louisans are locking in events on the calendar (even if it’s for a year they haven’t made a calendar for yet).

“Even though it’s nine years out, I’m already excited for what it’s going to do for the golf narrative for our region,” said Ascension executive vice president Nick Ragone, who put on the record-breaking 2021 Ascension Charity Classic, featuring golfers from the PGA Tour Champions circuit. “This is going to be a game-changer — I don’t know that fans in St. Louis realize how big a global golf team sport event is.”

At least some of us don’t. I mean, I know the Ryder Cup, but what’s the Presidents Cup?

Turns out, it’s pretty cool.

 

It’s a match-play event featuring golfers from the United States against non-European counterparts. And, sure enough, there will be 30 matches in the ’30 event. Each match is worth a point. It draws the biggest names in golf — Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer have all been U.S. captains over the decades. And there is no prize money. No purses. But the funds generated by the tournament go to charities chosen by the winning team. The past three Cup championships by the U.S. led to an eye-popping $22.2 million donated to charity.

“If you have even a passing interest in golf, but you have a strong interest in seeing great teams and talented people going at it on the field of play, you’re going to love it,” said Matt Rapp, the PGA Tour’s senior vice president of championship management, while on a balcony overlooking the Bellerive course. “Plus, the environment is just electric. It is fantastic out on the course because of the cheers. It’s more like a soccer international football match than it is a golf tournament. … It’s a team event, which is very rare in golf. These happen essentially once a year. And it’s Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup. And that’s really the only time that these guys come together. Golf is the ultimate individual sport. But in a team event, you’re playing as a team against another team. And so it’s a very different feel. … It’s individuals going against individuals, as opposed to trying to compete against a course. And so, each individual shot, there’s tension, there’s interest, there’s excitement, there’s cheering.”

And along the ropes, asking for autographs, will be 8-year-olds who haven’t yet been born. Wait, will kids even seek autographs in 2030? Or will they instead collect non-fungible tokens with datum confirming a golfer’s interaction with them? Still, it will be cool to see golf’s greatest gripper-and-rippers roaming the “Green Monster.”

“And then, I mean, you look at this place,” Rapp said from the balcony. “It’s lovely. It’s just a phenomenal facility. So you get a chance to come out and see all this beauty. Plus, (the PGA Tour) is going to lay it all on, Bellerive is going to lay it all on, the city’s going to lay it on, so I think it’ll be fun for everybody. Obviously the people in the fancy suites, they’re going have a great time. But we really want to make sure that even the lowest-end ticket, you’re going to have a phenomenal experience.”

And the president might even come. Two elections will happen before 2030 comes around, sure. But in Presidents Cups past, the presidents from the past made the Cup a stately event. Rapp shared the story of the 2017 event, when the opening tee shot features three former presidents. And Phil Mickelson took a selfie.

“Those guys only get together, really, at state funerals,” Rapp said. “This is the only time they get together when there’s a joyous occasion. And the energy, it was electric.”

St. Louis is a baseball town, until it’s a hockey town. Until, of course, it’s a soccer town. Until, every few years, when it’s a golf town. We do all of our sports well. I’ve lived in other sports cities. I’ve seen the other side of it. St. Louis combined the passion with the history with the pride. We saw it most recently at the Ascension Charity Classic, with record numbers for a first-time PGA Tour Champions event. And I’m sure we’ll see it in 2030 — and beyond.

©2021 STLtoday.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
 

 

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