Team behind the team

The stories of experts and organizers who help
the European Team and make The Ryder Cup happen

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In September, 12 golfers from Europe will assemble at Gleneagles, in Scotland, to take on their counterparts from the US. But building a winning Ryder Cup team, and hosting a successful event, involves more people than just the players. Many others provide the insight and expertise that create the conditions for success.

So, as we look forward to the 2014 Ryder Cup, EY will be meeting members of this “Team behind the team”. We will find out how they are contributing to Europe’s bid for victory and to the organization of an event that will capture the attention of sports fans around the world.

EY Ryder cup - Mikhel Ruia

Mikhel Ruia

Style and substance at The Ryder Cup

Posted: 15 April 2014

Mikhel Ruia is Managing Director of Glenmuir, suppliers of shirts and knitwear to the European team.

For 27 years, Glenmuir has supplied the European Ryder Cup team’s shirts and knitwear. Our design team in Lanark, Scotland, has worked with successive European captains to design and craft the shirts and knitwear for the teams. The first tournament we were involved in was back in 1987, when Tony Jacklin captained Europe’s first winning team on American soil.

We are working to produce garments that not only look good but also perform in the intensity of one of the world’s greatest sporting competitions. First, our design team has to consider the technological specifications. When the event is in Scotland, the requirements are different from those in the US. Ultimately, the fabrics are more performance-based, with the shirts having superior characteristics. This makes them quick-drying, breathable and highly moisture wicking, so the European players are kept comfortable when they are out in the heat of competition.

Our knitwear is made from pure and resilient Scottish cashmere, with natural characteristics that make the garments breathable, lightweight and warm, so the players are kept insulated in the cool Scottish climate.” ↓ [... more]

So it’s not just style that’s important. It’s also comfort and playability. All three factors lead to performance.

We’ve worked with successive European captains since 1987. Some of them take a laissez-faire approach, while others are more hands-on. We’ve had a lot of invaluable input from Paul McGinley. It’s been a collaboration since the design process started at the beginning of 2013. He has a lot of ideas about the overall looks he’d like to achieve, while he takes Glenmuir’s own design expertise on board.

It’s an iterative, back-and-forth process, with our design team liaising with production and sampling, and then sharing the designs with Paul for his feedback.

The first stage of manufacturing is getting the yarns together and ordering fabrics so we’ve got enough raw material. Then, once the team members have been confirmed, we take part in a fitting session with the players, and get the sizing requirements. Then we finalize the process of putting the garments together.

For all the meticulous planning, there are always last-minute issues for which you must be prepared. For example, in 2012 we had to fly our finest embroiderer out to Chicago to do some amendments to the embroidery.

We produce six different polo shirt designs and six different sweater designs, so each team member will have a fresh new outfit for each day. Depending on the captain’s requirements, the sweaters are supplied as V-necks, zip necks and slipovers, in the selected design for each day. So the players can choose which garment to wear depending on their individual preferences and the weather.

We’re keeping this year’s designs very much under wraps. But we can safely say that, together with Paul, we have taken great inspiration from Scotland. ↑ [... less]

EY Ryder cup - Edward Kitson

Edward Kitson

Bringing it all together at The Ryder Cup

Posted: 7 April 2014

Edward Kitson explains his role as Europe’s Ryder Cup Match Director.

My role is to work under Ryder Cup Director Richard Hills and oversee all the operational and management details of putting the match together. I cover a number of different areas. For example, I’m the key person dealing with the venue at Gleneagles, and I’m one of a number of people who work closely with Visit Scotland and the Scottish Government. I also liaise with my American counterparts over the opening and closing ceremonies, the gala dinners and security.

One of my most important tasks is to coordinate the work of Ryder Cup Europe’s planning – such as the operations, sponsorship, media, merchandise and championship management teams. It’s my job to know what everyone is doing and make sure that they all work well together.

In 2001, the whole Ryder Cup site was built and ready for action. But, after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, The Ryder Cup was postponed for a year. I was involved in dealing with all our different contractors and suppliers so we could rebuild the match for 2002. That was a unique experience. ”↓ [... more]

The Ryder Cup is a team match and we, as Ryder Cup organizers, work as a team. When there are competing demands, we look to make adjustments to find a solution. For example, the merchandise team might want to have the biggest possible tent on-site, but that might not be achievable because of all the other demands that we have on the space around the course and tented village. So I work on finding a solution that satisfies all parties. And this comes from negotiation and sensible discussion.

All of us who work on The Ryder Cup try to create the same atmosphere of team spirit that the players enjoy. And sometimes, we have to help each other out in different areas, prior to the match or during the match, when the stresses and strains are put on us.

I suppose others can judge, but if I've got a couple of good qualities, one is remaining calm under duress. I try to maintain an internal calmness when things get very difficult. Another is keeping the morale of the team up when some have had long and tiring days. It’s important for me to be chatty and give everyone some time and encouragement.

This applies not just to the team that works for The Ryder Cup, but also for all the contractors and suppliers. There are 6,000–7,000 contractors working behind the scenes at The Ryder Cup. So, for example, I need to keep in contact with the person who is running the catering, and make sure they are up to speed with all the information. I listen to them and provide support and encouragement.

The adrenaline I get when the week comes is enormous. The excitement and passion comes from years of hard work. I’ve been working on The Ryder Cup at Gleneagles for the best part of eight years. Seeing that come to fruition when the first ball is struck on the Friday morning will be an amazing experience. So much work, and so many sleepless hours, over the years culminate in that special moment.

And then comes Sunday evening, when the closing ceremony is concluded Again, hopefully, there is a sense of relief that the week has gone well, that all the team has worked together and that we’ve delivered a successful Ryder Cup. And, obviously, it’s always great if Europe can win! ↑ [... less]

EY Ryder cup - Mike McClellan

Mike McClellan

Braving the elements at The Ryder Cup

Posted: 25 March 2014

Mike McClellan is a meteorologist advising on weather conditions at Gleneagles.

I started the Mobile Weather Team in 1991. We provide on-site weather forecasts and storm tracking to outdoor sporting events.

Golf has always been a passion of mine. I knew that the sport was in need of minute-by-minute storm tracking and weather information. Officials need to know when lightning and other dangerous situations are likely to hit, so that they can make sure the players and spectators stay safe.

We have worked on all the major Championships, first in the US, and then at the Open Championship. Golf has been our primary focus, but we’ve also done NASCAR racing, tennis, baseball and soccer – and the Atlanta Olympic Games in 1996. ”↓ [... more]

We bring our own lightning prediction system on-site at The Ryder Cup. This sophisticated equipment measures the buildup of electrostatic energy in the atmosphere, prior to lightning striking the ground. It gives us 10 to 20 minutes advance warning that lightning could strike the golf course. We can then notify the officials so that they can evacuate the course.

Our ability to predict lightning gives us a competitive edge. In addition to our lightning warnings, we can also predict heavy rain and flooding, strong winds and frost.

In 2010, when we were at Celtic Manor, heavy rain was the issue. We had so much rain that some parking areas had to be closed. It affected the spectator walk areas outside the ropes. The organizers had to bring in wood chips and build bridges over little swales due to the standing water. They had to rope off certain areas so people wouldn’t walk through them. And they had to bus people in because the parking lots were flooded.

By knowing in advance that heavy rain was coming, the organizers were able to get truckloads of wood chips and gravel standing by. Everything was waiting, ready for action. The green staff had extra people on-site. They brought in extra squeegees to remove the water from the greens and pumps to get water out of the bunkers.

All this was done behind the scenes, and nobody ever really thought about it. If they only had the regular green staff, the course would not have been prepared in time. With the extra people and equipment, they were able to get the course ready for action. ↑ [... less]

EY Ryder cup - Antonia Beggs

Antonia Beggs

Perspiration and inspiration

Posted: 14 March 2014

Antonia Beggs is Operations Director for The Ryder Cup at Gleneagles. Her remit includes spectators, caterers, staff, television, security, transport and other outside-the-ropes issues.

I coordinate the unglamorous side of staging The Ryder Cup. There are many important preparations to make, and you have to make sacrifices. But it is so rewarding.

I chair the transport group, which includes the police, Transport Scotland, the Government and the emergency services. Each day, we expect 45,000 people to come to The Ryder Cup. Many will want to be on the first tee at 7:30 a.m. on the Friday morning, which presents a challenge for the rest of Scotland’s commuters. So the transport group must come up with a scheme that allows spectators to get to the course on time – and then get back to their homes or hotels on Friday evening when, again, the roads will be busy.

We’ll have 2,000 volunteers for The Ryder Cup from 26 different countries. They will do anything from ball-spotting to being on a park-and-ride bus, or briefing people about the glories of Scotland. ”↓ [... more]

Then there’s the tented village to design and build. On the course, we'll have five double-decker hospitality structures that need to be constructed, furnished, lit, powered and taken down again.

But it’s a truly inspirational sporting event. You can see the passion that spectators, players, volunteers, staff, everybody has for this event. It is truly magical.

When you go into meetings for the first time with stakeholders, such as local councils and the police, and say, “Right, we're going to deliver The Ryder Cup to Scotland,” you can see the passion it generates in them.

I wish I could bring the captains, Paul McGinley and Tom Watson, to one of the group meetings that I chair. I know Paul is very much aware of all the work that goes on behind the scenes but, nevertheless, I’d love to bring them in and say, “Guys, just have a look at this. See what it means and what these people are giving and how much they want to make it work for you.”

The team is so strong among the people from Ryder Cup Europe and the outside stakeholders. We all come together because we all have the same aim. It’s all about delivering and safeguarding the event and its incredible sense of sportsmanship.

What fosters this sense of teamwork among the organizers? We spend huge amounts of time away from home. It's a bit like working on a film set. We call it the “event bubble.” We start the build-up for The Ryder Cup in July and it finishes in November. Some of our operations team members are going to be there the whole way through. You’re sharing houses. You’re hanging up each other’s washing. Sharing and overcoming adversity – like the postponement of The Ryder Cup in 2001, the hurricane in 2006 and the torrential rain in 2010 – always brings people together.

Working on The Ryder Cup, people become genuine friends, not just colleagues. And I think that level of friendship is seen by all the other agencies with which we work. And, funnily enough, they end up becoming part of it too. ↑ [... less]

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