Sotogrande’s Ryder Cup history
For the second time in history, the Solheim Cup and the Ryder Cup will take place in the same year, just one week apart. Both events carry amazing history and sporting moments that golf fans recall for years to come.
The Solheim Cup was played last week at nearby Finca Cortesin and has helped to raise the profile of women’s golf even further. This continental match-up returning to Spain has reminded us of the great times when the Ryder Cup was held a little closer to home.
The 1997 Ryder Cup was held in the heart of Sotogrande, at Real Club Valderrama in the late days of September. The European Team was captained by legendary Spanish golfer, Seve Ballesteros and some notable names made up the team roster. Significantly, Spanish golfers, José María Olazábal and Ignacio Garrido were part of that European side.
The rest of the team was made up by Colin Montgomerie (Scotland), Darren Clarke (Northern Ireland), Bernhard Langer (Germany), Ian Woosnam (Wales), Per-Ulrik Johansson (Sweden), Lee Westwood (England), Thomas Bjørn (Denmark), Costantino Rocca (Italy), Jesper Parnevik (Sweden) and Nick Faldo (England).
The American team was captained by major winner Tom Kite. A young, talented Tiger Woods made his debut in this playing of the Ryder cup alongside, Justin Leonard, Tom Lehman, Davis Love III, Jim Furyk, Phil Mickelson, Jeff Maggert, Mark O’Meara, Scott Hoch, Brad Faxon, Lee Janzen, and Fred Couples.
It’s said that Seve used Valderrama’s protection to his advantage when setting up the course for the matches. Valderrama’s famously narrow fairways and small greens suited the European players, and he made sure every aspect of the course was exaggerated to throw the Americans off.
After a steady first day in the foursomes and fourball matches, only one point separated the teams. Momentum heading into the weekend was vital, and the crowds at Valderrama helped with what was to come. On the Saturday, Europe dominated, picking up six points across the two sessions, and surging five points ahead moving into the highly anticipated Sunday singles.
A shock was about to arrive though, as the Americans got a good night’s sleep and came out fighting on Sunday morning. With convincing red wins all day, it all came down to the final match in true dramatic Ryder Cup fashion. Colin Montgomerie halved his match with Scott Hoch on the 18th green to seal the victory for Team Europe.
The Atmosphere was amazing as European fans swarmed and surrounded the green to celebrate. This began a six-year winning streak for Team Europe and put Real Club Valderrama on the map as a one of the most celebrated golf courses in Europe and Ryder Cup history.
One individual that understands the importance that the Ryder Cup holds for players as they progress through their career is resident Ryder Cup legend, Manuel Piñero. Manuel competed in the Ryder Cup in both 1981 and 1985, and has an impressive match play record of 6-3.