CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The hype was real.
An hour before the Presidents Cup’s official starter called out Thursday’s first match, the massive, temporary stadium surrounding the first tee was filled nearly to capacity. Some were there to cheer on the International team, of course — among the more obvious in that bunch were fans dressed in Royal Canadian Mounted Police uniforms, waving the familiar red-and-white maple leaf flag.
But the overwhelming majority wore red, white and blue. They wore beads around their collars, painted stars and stripes on their faces, and hung American flags over the elevated railings.
Speakers blasted popular stadium anthems. Fifty feet away, on the practice green, some members from both the International and U.S. teams worked on final adjustments, but even members of their entourages could be seen briefly bobbing to the beat before catching themselves.
Back inside the stadium, as the first tee times drew near, the chants grew in volume and frequency. Below the stands directly behind the first tee box, in the shadowed gateway leading to the team gathering rooms, a glint of sun caught the Presidents Cup trophy. Holding the chalice were U.S. team captain’s assistant Fred Couples and golf legend Jack Nicklaus.
As they paraded the cup to its podium amid the surrounding spectacle, the loudest roar of all echoed across the grounds — a golden gift from the Golden Bear.
It was a spectacle, yes, but not with the overdone braggadocios pomp of “Apollo Creed vs. Ivan Drago.” Instead, it was a reverent celebration, with captains Trevor Immelman of the International side and Davis Love III of the U.S. praising each other multiple times over, reminding everyone that, when this weekend is all over, they’ll all still be friends.
It was a festival of golf, they agreed, a weekend to celebrate the fact that “all 24 players (here) are committed to the PGA Tour.”
The stands erupted with cheers again as Love obviously chose those words specifically to highlight those golfers who have chosen to join the upstart, Saudi-backed LIV Tour, making them ineligible for this event.
The hype was real. It was loud.