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.

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EY Ryder cup - Alan Gibb

Alan Gibb

Preparation areas at The Ryder Cup

Posted: 18 September 2014

Alan Gibb is the Executive Chef at the Gleneagles resort. She is responsible for coordinating the contingency plans.

My role is 80% management, but I still enjoy cooking very much. That’s my passion.

I still try to be involved in the kitchens wherever I can. So, as well as menu development, I’ll get involved in tastings and private dining events. ↓ [... more]


And I’m around in the kitchens, making sure that things are going well.

Being a chef is an all-consuming role. It’s not something you can do in a normal working week.

But we have a lot of fun. I learn new things every day, and so do the chefs around me.

People come from around the world to work in the kitchens, and you pick things up from them.

Catering for such a high-profile event takes careful planning. For example, we’ll have a team at the clubhouse who will prepare food for both sets of players and look after families and officials.

The first team of chefs will start at 4:30 a.m. They will be relieved by a second team that will come in and cover the late afternoon and evening.

And then, within the main kitchen of the hotel, we’ll have a similar setup. I’ve got head chefs and sous chefs who will take ownership of these teams.

My role is going to be making sure that everybody is doing their part, and all the chefs are up to speed and getting on with it.

The guys will have to dig deep to get the job done. I’m very lucky that chefs, generally, are self-motivated people. They really want to succeed.

I also look at the logistics of bringing products onto the site. Roads will be closed at certain times, so we’re arranging for suppliers to deliver at allocated time slots.

I will plan the operation and then trust my team to deliver. We are very much a team.

I think the most important things I do are listening to people, understanding their pressures and concerns, and making sure that each team member understands their role.

I’m very reliant on the team to make sure that we come through.

A lot of the chefs are very experienced. Experience in different kitchens, and of different events and situations, means that we should be able to get over any challenges that might arise.

But equally, we’ve got a lot of young, very keen staff who want to make their mark and be associated with The Ryder Cup.

We’re all proud to work at Gleneagles, and being here during a Ryder Cup is an absolute honor. Although it’s challenging, it’s very rewarding. ↑ [... less]


EY Ryder cup - Antonia Beggs

Antonia Beggs

Preparing for the unexpected at The Ryder Cup

Posted: 16 September 2014

Antonia Beggs is Operations Director for the 2014 Ryder Cup. She is responsible for coordinating the contingency plans.

I sit on 12 different sub-groups of contingency planning. It sounds like a lot, but when you think back to 2001, you remember that The Ryder Cup was postponed just a week before it was meant to happen.

People forget the bad weather we had in Ireland at the 2006 Ryder Cup. That is because it was so bad in Wales four years later. ↓ [... more]


But in 2006, two days before the start of play, we had a hurricane. The only hurricane Ireland seems to have had in 120 years, and it happened on the Wednesday evening of The Ryder Cup.

We had caterers and builders on site, fitting out structures so they would be ready to open the following day.

But they all had to be evacuated, because any building higher than one story was deemed unsafe. We had to evacuate the media center – that became unsafe.

I remember going onto the site at 4:00 a.m. on the morning after the hurricane and looking at the tented village that had looked so lovely 24 hours before.

All the signs and facades had come down, tents were hanging in trees. It was complete chaos. But we pulled together to make it safe and did what we could to make it look smart.

The high winds carried on. Play was delayed for a couple of hours on the Friday morning. We had to hold many spectators at the park-and-ride center, and then it just rained for three days.

That experience prepared us well for what was to come in Wales. The amount of resilience we had in place for bad weather at Celtic Manor was enormous.

We invested in walkways so that spectators could get around safely if it rained. And we booked an extra 200 double-decker buses, in case play stretched into the Monday – which it did. We had the Monday contingency plans prepared six months beforehand.

The contingency plans for Gleneagles were written in 2013. I wanted them to be written in the clear light of day, before we got too operational.

We have a crowd safety management and contingency plan. It's 160 pages, but none of it is waffle.

Every page has a sub-heading, which will say something like Lost Child Policy or Grandstand Collapse Policy. We must know what to do if the unthinkable happens.

The most important element of the plan is communication. Who tells who, and who says what to the outside world. There's nothing more frustrating for people than not getting information.

In the years between Ryder Cups in Europe, we refine our policies and learn from these other events. Thus we augment and enhance our Ryder Cup contingency planning.

We use outside experts, such as crowd safety consultants, health and safety consultants, and our insurers and risk assessors.

They sit on our risk assessment group and help us to write our contingency plans. My role is to take advice from around 40 trained experts and then bring it all together.

We test various scenarios. These sessions examine how we would react and show up any gaps in our contingency plans. ↑ [... less]


EY Ryder cup - Setting the Ryder Cup stage

Scott Fenwick

Setting the Ryder Cup stage

Posted: 11 September 2014

Scott Fenwick is Golf Courses and Estate Manager at Gleneagles.

We brought an architect on site to look at redesigning some of the holes, to bring them more into line with modern-day golf. We worked with that architect for five years or so, and then we went back to working with Jack.

It was great to work with Jack. He came over to see us in June 2011. First, he quickly surveyed the course to refresh his memory of what was here. ↓ [... more]


He looked at the work that we had already done with the previous architect, and he was happy with what had been carried out.

Then, he went all the way around the course again, looking at all 18 holes in more detail. And from that, he came up with his thoughts on what we needed to do.

The biggest, most dramatic, of his proposals were the changes to hole number 18.

As it was, the par five 18th didn’t offer any real strategic options. You simply teed off, laid up with your second shot and then it became a pitching competition.

Jack wanted to make a dramatic change to 18, to make it more of a challenge. We all agreed. We left it as a par five, but totally changed how the hole plays.

We brought the tees forward 20 meters and raised them by 2.5 meters, which created an elevated platform from which to play.

We added a bunker at the right side of the landing zone to define the turn of the hole. If you hit the right shot, you would carry over it and land in the perfect spot on the fairway.

From the landing zone toward the green, we dug the fairway out five meters, shifting 50,000 tons of soil. We put it all down the left-hand side to increase the spectator mounding.

We created a slightly elevated green, moved it further forward and turned it 90 degrees across the hole, so it now plays up and down the hole.

It’s on a little plateau now, with big swales off to the left and right, and it’s heavily bunkered.

The effect of all this is to give the player the option of attempting to reach the green in two. But, unless you hit the perfect second shot into the green, you catch the swales and bunkers on either side.

In recent years, The PGA Centenary Course has hosted the Johnnie Walker Championship on the European Tour. From speaking with players who took part, they have had really good things to say about the changes made.

Dropping the fairway down and building up mounds to the side has created a big amphitheater around the hole.

The players are quite low down. And, in contrast, once all the grandstands are set up, we’ll get even more height for the spectators. There should be quite some atmosphere when the players come up the 18th. ↑ [... less]


EY Ryder cup - Ian Plumley

Ian Plumley

The Ryder Cup’s eagle eye

Posted: 10 September 2014

As a TV spotter, the benefit of Ian Plumley’s work at this year’s Ryder Cup will be felt in living rooms across the world.

I’ll be at Gleneagles for the 2014 Ryder Cup working as a TV spotter. We follow the action closely and identify where each player has hit their ball.

We stand around 250 yards down the fairway on a long hole and watch the players drive. We’re wired up to the TV director, and we give them information that is crucial to the TV coverage. ↓ [... more]


We tell them who is next to play, so that the cameraman can focus on that particular player.

Then we move to the green, and we repeat the process. But here, we're identifying whether there's a birdie or eagle opportunity and, again, telling the TV control room which player is first to putt.

At the end of each hole, we report the scores back to the control room. Of course, there are scorers with each group, but sometimes the scorers come to us to double check.

Another part of the role is to make sure that balls from wayward shots are found. So, we have to rush across and identify or try and find the ball, often using the crowd to help us.

It’s hard work. You have to run ahead, so you can keep in front of play. Once the players you’re watching have hit their drives, you run on to the next vantage point.

It's quite intense, and you've got to get it right. You've got to feed accurate information back to the director so that the TV viewers can get the best possible coverage.

When you’re watching on TV and you see Sergio Garcia, for example, on the green, and the caption says, “Sergio Garcia. Birdie putt,” it’s because of people like me who tell the TV producer what to put on the screen.

So it’s a fairly important role. And we get a buzz from that.

The work is voluntary. It's just a hobby. You get great camaraderie with the other spotters and the marshals. It's hard work, but great fun. You don't get paid for it, but you do get pleasure.

After the round, we often sit with the commentators, some of whom are very famous ex-players. So it’s nice to be in that environment.

To do the job well, you need to be a golfer. You need to understand the game, its rules and technicalities. And you need to know the course you’re working on.

However, I’ve never been to Gleneagles. I’ve been preparing by watching fly-throughs. I’ve been thinking about which side of each fairway to walk up so that I can get the best view of the drives.

I'll be at Gleneagles on the day before play starts, so I will go out and walk the course. I’ll work out the little shortcuts that will help me to get to the next vantage point without hitting the crowds and getting stuck.

So, I'll walk the course – then probably have a sleepless night. ↑ [... less]


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"The chemistry has to be there. It’s important when you have two players and they feel comfortable with each other on the golf course or they think the same way on the golf course, and they’ve known each other for many years. But on the other hand, it’s not just that. It’s the way they play golf, it’s the way they see the game, and I think it’s a combination of those little things that create a good pairing." ↑ [... less]