Ryder Cup ceremony made golf look so straight and silly
Wives and girlfriends made to dress up like Stepford Wives and stand behind their men
Wives and girlfriends applaud their men as the US team players walk on stage during the opening ceremony of the 42nd Ryder Cup at Le Golf National. Photograph: Getty Images
The 42nd Ryder Cup started, like so many others before them, with the formal introduction of the wives and girlfriends. They were made to dress up like Stepford Wives and march in a parade on to the stage, where they made an immaculate backdrop for the opening ceremony. They spent the next hour sitting and standing, waving and clapping. They do not even get to stand by their men but have to line up behind them.
It is not really clear why the Ryder Cup feels the need to have them do this. It must be the only sporting event that makes a point of staging a parade for the players’ partners and putting out lists of “attending spouses”. It is, as they say at Augusta, a tradition like no other, and one they should have dispensed with a while back.
They do not do it at the Solheim Cup. The husbands and boyfriends are not made to troop on stage in matching shirts and blazers. But at the Ryder Cup, the wives and girlfriends – never yet a husband or boyfriend – are such an integral part of the show that the few players who show up alone say they feel pretty conspicuous about being single. Rickie Fowler was last time around but not this. The best thing about it, he said, was that this time he will “actually have someone to kiss” if his team win.
Instead, Fowler said, they will all “make fun of Bryson DeChambeau”, who has come on his own. Europe’s singleton is Thorbjørn Olesen, who got to make a threesome with Ian and Katie Poulter when it was all over and everyone had to march off, arm-in-arm with their partners.
Jim Furyk, ever-so-earnest, picked up on the theme when he filled a stretch of his speech with a long tribute to his wife Tabitha who, he said, as he stared misty-eyed into the middle distance like an army vet having a combat flashback, “loves the Ryder Cup as much as I do”. He thanked all the women “for putting up with us”.
Keith Pelley, the chief executive of the European Tour, keeps talking about how he wants the game to “embrace change and modernise to appeal to a wider market”, that it needs to evolve to appeal to “the millennial demographic”.
Seth Waugh, who is just starting as the chief executive of the PGA of America, says that he wants to make golf look and feel more like “our kids’ game as opposed to our parents’ game”.
They might make a small step in the right direction by cutting out this all ridiculous 1950s family values carry-on from their signature competition. Golf never looks so straight or so silly as it does at the opening ceremony of the Ryder Cup.
Golf never looks so straight or so silly as it does at the opening ceremony of the Ryder Cup
The competition could do with a man like Tadd Fujikawa. Sadly, he is not on the USA’s team, or even all that close to it since he is ranked 2,035th in the world.
Ten years ago, he was one of the most talented teenage players in the world. In 2006 he became the youngest player ever to qualify for the US Open, when he was just 16. The year after that, he became the youngest man in 50 years to make the cut in a PGA event, the Sony Open in Hawaii.
Since then, he has struggled because of anxiety and depression. It got so bad that he thought about quitting the sport.
Tadd Fujikawa puts his career decline down to ‘hiding and hating who I was’ before coming out as gay.
Until a fortnight ago, when Fujikawa decided to do something about it. He came out. On September 11th, just after World Suicide Prevention Day, Fujikawa put up an Instagram post that started: “So … I’m gay.” Fujikawa explained he was not sure whether to do it but decided to because “I remember how much others’ stories have helped me in my darkest times to have hope. I spent way too long pretending, hiding and hating who I was. I was always afraid of what others would think or say.
“I’ve struggled with my mental health for many years because of that and it put me in a really bad place. Now I’m standing up for myself and the rest of the LGBTQ community.”
Fujikawa is the first, and so far only, openly gay male professional golfer in the history of the game. In a follow-up interview with GQ he explained that his depression was not just down to being closeted but it was a large part of it, “because I was so deathly afraid of stuff coming out and just not accepting myself at all”.
The negative responses, he said, were the ones who asked him: “Who cares?” Because “as much as it shouldn’t matter, it does matter, because people are still struggling”. Only, so far as he knows, none of them are on the tour with him.
Back in 2014, Golf Monthly asked 200 top players whether they thought there were any gay men on tour. One of their anonymous responses was “I choose not to believe so”. Fujikawa feels so alone that he says: “I really think I am the only one. I was hoping that there would be others. It’s hard to tell. Golf is such an individual sport. And a lot of people really keep to themselves for the most part. Obviously, there’s gaydar, and mine works perfectly fine. But none that I can tell.”
The Ladies Tour, of course, has had plenty of openly gay players for years. That is just another area, then, where the women are in front of the men, not stuck beside and behind them.