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This is a guest post from my dad, Grandpa Points. He and my mom are in their 60’s, are (mostly) retired, and are ticking off “bucket list” destinations quicker than they ever thought possible thanks to miles, points, and travel deals. They have an intense love of this country, of its National Parks and treasures, and have no problem with a clean budget hotel room and an economy airline seat on a budget airline as long as it gets them where they want to be. A photographer by trade, his adventures are usually captured not just in his mind, but in his camera (though sadly actual cameras were not allowed at this destination). He shares his thoughts and travels here from time to time, and I’m excited to share another one of their big adventures.
I am an athlete. I love athletes. There, I said it. I own up to it. After the importance of being a good husband, dad, friend and human, there is likely nothing in my life that has meant more. I love competition. I love putting on the uniform, lacing up the shoes and grabbing the equipment. I am in my element when practicing or playing. I inhale the smells and the sounds of the playing field and when a game is ending my thoughts have always raced excitedly to the next. I am an equally avid, passionate and involved spectator. I will wholeheartedly root, root, root for the home team and the days are indeed better when victory greets one of “my” teams.
However, I have always tried to temper my enthusiasm with respect, perspective and civility. I was honored a long time ago with The Sportsmanship Award from my first season of play and I feel my life’s story has held true to this honor.
I applaud the great play, the big shot and the well earned victory regardless of the colors worn. I tip my hat and extend my hand to those that excel. I try to be a true fan, but a good fan. This is the context, this is the basis for the raw joy that comes my way when given the opportunity to attend a major sporting event. This happened this summer when a trip to The Ryder Cup went from fantasy to reality.
The Ryder Cup has been on my “hope to do” radar for decades. I have diligently entered the ticket lottery every four years when it is held in the US of A, but my number was never drawn. I have certainly considered the secondary market but always found the cost to be prohibitive. So, I pretty much had conceded that this year’s matches would again be experienced and enjoyed with front row seats to our 52 inch Samsung TV. And then, Father’s Day arrived and with it came the unfolding of a serendipitous chain of events that saw Ryder Cup tickets presented to me in an otherwise nondescript light blue gift bag.
The abridged version of how the tickets came to be started when the ever vigilant Mommy Points somehow overlooked a Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) Moments offer that made a pair of week long RYDER CUP TICKETS available and obtainable for 20,000 SPG points.
Mommy Points had previously taken advantage of SPG Moments programs, so she is usually aware of what is being offered and the details involved. When she found out post-deadline that this offer had been missed, she wrote a blog about the lost golden opportunity of getting Ryder Cup tickets for her dad. A few days later she was contacted by an SPG representative who had read the blog article and offered her the package.
She was shocked and ultimately could not say no to being presented the opportunity to send her parents to the Ryder Cup. It could be assumed that SPG might have deduced that a blog about the experience might be in the offing. And, this is that blog that would have been written regardless of the nature of the procurement of the ticket package.
Once the very surprised but very grateful Mommy Points had received the tickets, she and Grandma Points got together to line up the rest of the surprise trip. Turns out Spirit Airlines had a Houston to Minneapolis flight option available for 5,000 points round trip. Grandma Points quickly used 10,000 of her Spirit Miles to reserve the two round trip seats. Next, Club Carlson points were used for a hotel reservation at the relatively nearby Country Inn & Suites By Carlson, Minneapolis West. The tickets to the event plus the airlines and hotel reservations were the contents of the previously described blue gift bag I received on Father’s Day. I must admit that when I put the pieces together, I was overwhelmed. And a little emotional. And humbled.
For those not familiar, the Ryder Cup is an international golf team event between the United States and Europe that is held every two years.
It has a storied history and is the ultimate team golf competition. The rivalry between the two teams for the Ryder Cup week is very intense and is quite different from the regular play on the American and European PGA tours.
Pro golfers are usually independent contractors playing by themselves for themselves. But, for The Ryder Cup they are playing for a nation, a continent and for a team and the collective pressure is matched only by the enthusiasm and passion of the fans. It is Us versus Them and Ours against Yours. Patriotism and hubris are present in abundance and those in attendance are sure to be identifiable by the clothing that they wear.
Last Friday, the day finally arrived for us to board our early morning flight to Minneapolis/St. Paul.
We had packed our red, white and blue apparel in our Spirit-approved free personal carry-on item (backpack) and settled in for our 2 hour 40 minute flight. As we flew over the heartland of America, I observed the land and noted that it looked like a huge never ending checker board in green and brown tones.
I thought that the division and layout of the land must have been put into the hands of a mechanical drawing class with only a T-Square as a plotting tool and a sheet of graph paper as a guide. Everything was subdivided into exact squares. Here a square, there a square, everywhere a square square. Getting lost looked like an impossibility. It was very impressive in a uniform kind of way and quite different from the topography I have seen elsewhere while flying over this country of ours. And, thank you to this region for being our nation’s breadbasket.
As we approached MSP, the number of trees increased and there were lakes everywhere.
I believe the Land of 10,000 Lakes may have missed a few in the count. There are a lot of lakes. I was surprised at the relative flatness of the area as I had a preconceived notion of a more hilly landscape. But, it is a truly beautiful part of our great nation.
We picked up our very affordable Payless Rental car and zoomed off to the Hazeltine Golf Club where we lived through all the daylight hours for the next three days. There was so much red, white and blue that we thought the other colors must have been prohibited and we were sure that for those three days the alphabet had been reduced to only three letters, U, S and A.
The Ryder Cup is a spectacle of human athletic drama played out before a live audience. A big live audience. A big live loud audience. It is a collection of the best of the best that have earned their place on this special stage. And what a stage it was. The Kentucky Bluegrass was as green and lush as it was possible to be.
The sand was so white and fine that it looked like sugar. The sky was a never ending blue that stretched from dawn to dusk and the sun was a constant friend warming and welcoming you like a good hug. The weather was so perfect it was as if The Great Administrator In the Sky was a golf fan for the week and gave his/her blessing on the event. It was that perfect.
The golf was spectacular with ebbs and flows, jabs and body blows, punches and counter punches and birdies in bunches. There were fist bumps. chest bumps, goose bumps, high fives and big bear hugs. Emotions were worn on the shirt sleeves and faces of those in the fray as each knew the result could depend on their play. And play, they did. I applaud all 24 golfers for rising to the challenge and for passing the test. It was quite a show, gentlemen. Quite a show.
One of the truly memorable highlights of the event was the dedication, participation and involvement of the fans. They play a mostly anonymous tangential role but it is a character part that adds color, flavor and passion to the unfolding story line.
The fans are cheerleaders, flag wavers, yell leaders, singers, welcoming committee and members of the good humor club. The first tee is where the organized fun is at its celebrated best. It is like having a front row seat to a concert of your favorite artist. It is like being a guest at a celebrity roast and the 12th man at a football game. The first tee is where the European players were greeted with respect and the American golfers with deafening roars. You want to be a part of that action, and, we were. It took effort and a plan to secure one of the coveted spots. We arrived as the gates opened at sunrise and rushed to the grandstands with no guarantee of success at this first come, first served open seating.
Our hopes were fulfilled and we climbed the stairs to claim our spots. The upside was that we were successful. The downside was that it was still 3 plus hours til the first golfers were to tee off. The time, however, went by quickly with conversations with the good people nearby, the spotting of celebrities like Bill Murray, Michael Jordan, and Tiger Woods, and the almost continuous orchestrated or spontaneous cheering, singing and good spirited fun.
A group of veteran Ryder Cup attendees in matching USA hockey jerseys and Viking headgear are the centerpieces of the bleacher action. They are VIPs with status. They lead the yells and start the songs. There is also a similar group of costumed Euros that prompt the visiting European fans. We yelled til our voices cracked and we sang The Star Spangled Banner and America the Beautiful with endearing emotion. The stars and stripes were everywhere and were swung in a pounding unison to the chants of USA, USA!
I fully expected the National Enquirer to have a headline reporting that thousands of US citizens had turned to self flagelation at a cult gathering in Minnesota. The action and excitement at the First Tee will remain with me until I sign my final scorecard. It was so fun.
The crowds, as Buddy The Elf once said, were GINORMOUS! It was predicted that 50,000 would attend each day but that had to be significantly under estimated. The ideal weather and the great golf were certainly major influences to the huge crowds. It is always a thrill to hear the distant roars roll across the golf course as greatness occurs. The roars carried distinct volume describers as to who did what and where. At times, you could double your sensory pleasure by glancing at a video board to watch the action on a distant hole and cheer as the action was viewed.
Then a few seconds later you could hear the crowd from that hole as the actual sound got to you. It was a real life demonstration that light travels faster than sound.
There was plenty to cheer about for this patriot, golfer, spectator, sportsman and fan. The confluence of the unbeatable conditions, sterling play and dynamic atmosphere resulted in (with deliberate deference and homage to Arnold Palmer) a two thumbs up exclamation point. The smile has not left my sun drenched face. Oh, and did I mention, WE WON !!!
EPILOGUE : As I was putting my thoughts together for this blog, I knew I would mention the SPG Moments offerings since that is of course how all of this was made possible. After our unique and rewarding experience, I truly thought that the package Mommy Points received must have been a one-off-special-not-usually-available anomaly.
In it were two tickets for each of the three practice rounds and for the three days of actual competition. As I reflected on it, I had convinced myself this package could not have been available for 20,000 SPG points. It was just too much, too good of a deal. I asked Mommy Points to double check the offer and to verify that our package was indeed what was available to any SPG member for 20,000 total points. She confirmed that it was…as long as they were quick on their keyboard.
To me, this is truly one of the greatest values I have ever seen in the world of miles and points. I look forward to exploring SPG Moments deals in the future. It will be hard to top this one, but I will keep my eyes and ears open to see what unfolds.
In closing, a sincere thank you to Arnold Palmer for all the contributions he made to the game of golf and to the game of life. He gave more than he took. He was loved and will be missed.
$100 Visa Giveaway and Epilogue Part 2 from Mommy Points:
There are a few hard to believe opportunities that have come across my keyboard in relation to this site, and this one was certainly high up there. It would have been simpler had I just seen the Ryder Cup SPG Moments offerings in time, but no matter how the pieces of the puzzle came together, I’m grateful to have played a role in my dad getting to fulfill his dream of cheering on Team USA at the Ryder Cup. A million thank you’s to the SPG Moments team, and to pay forward a small amount of our good fortune, I want to give a $100 Visa gift card to one of you to use however you deem best. Just leave a comment on this post sharing one of your “Bucket List” dreams by 11:59 PM CST on 10/12/16 and I’ll select a random winner. One entry per person, must be 18+, void where prohibited, must respond with name and mailing address within one week of notification of winning.
Editorial Note: The opinions expressed here are mine and not provided, reviewed, by any bank, card issuer, or other company unless otherwise stated.