9 Ottobre 2022
Ryder Cup Year to Go
The Ryder Cup Year to Go in Rome proved a huge hit – and put golf in Italy in the global media spotlight.
The two-day celebration brought together Europe and USA team captains Luke Donald and Zach Johnson for a series of memorable events in Rome, Italy, including golf in the Colosseum, an audience with The Pope at the Vatican and a showcase match for elite junior players and disabled golfers at Marco Simone Golf & Country.
For golf in Italy and golf clubs across the country, including The Club at Castiglion del Bosco, The Ryder Cup Year to Go celebrations marked the start of the countdown to golf’s greatest team match and one of the world’s largest sporting events.
The week began with a special Captains’ Challenge match at Marco Simone Golf & Country Club, host venue of the 2023 Ryder Cup.
Luke Donald and Zach Johnson were joined by 12 members of the Federazione Italiana Golf’s (FIG) Elite National Under 18 team – six boys and six girls aged 15-18 – and four members of the Elite Disabled team for the four-hole match over the first, 16th, 17th and 18th holes at Marco Simone.
Approximately 300 local school children watched the Captains’ Challenge which fittingly ended in a tie, with the two teams sharing the trophy with two points each.
Each participant was then presented with a commemorative medal by David Williams, Chairman of the European Tour group, and Marta Maestroni, General Secretary of the Federazione Italiana Golf.
Luke Donald said: “Legacy is a really important part of the Ryder Cup. Having the Ryder Cup here will hopefully garner new interest in the game and encourage a new generation to take up golf. We saw some amazing golf from the players today. It was a fantastic way to kick off this week.
“The Ryder Cup is a huge deal in golf. It is our biggest team event which brings in viewers who don’t even play golf because of the great rivalry and history. So today is a great way to start the Year To Go and tell people what an amazing event the Ryder Cup is.”
Zach Johnson said “Today was fun. It was something different, something unique. I think the beauty of this game and the Ryder Cup is that a year in advance we can play golf with kids who love the game, and we can showcase it in a cool way.”
Franco Chimenti, President of the Federazione Italiana Golf, said: “This is the Italian golf festival, a truly exciting time. To see so many children present, with two world ambassadors like Luke Donald and Zach Johnson, is exciting. The Ryder Cup will definitely help promote golf in Italy and will bring great benefits to the country, not only in the immediate future but in the long term too.”
In the evening Captains Luke Donald and Zach Johnson were joined by 200 guests at the Ryder Cup Year To Go Gala Dinner.
The spectacular event took place at the Palazzo Colonna in the heart of the city, home to one of Rome’s most impressive art collections.
European Captain Donald was accompanied by his wife Diane and United States Captain Johnson by his wife Kim.
Donald and Johnson also took part in a Q&A session hosted by the BBC’s Golf Correspondent Iain Carter.
On day two, Luke Donald and Zach Johnson took the Ryder Cup to one of Rome’s most iconic landmarks, the Colosseum, for a golf shot like no other.
The two captains chipped shots from a specifically built platform to a Ryder Cup green located in Tempio di Venere Roma (Temple of Venus and Roma), in the shadow of the world-famous Colosseum.
The pair took the famous Ryder Cup trophy into the heart of Rome to the Colosseum, one of the city’s most historic sights which attracts millions of tourists each year.
Built in the 1st Century AD, the stone amphitheatre was a gathering place during the Roman Empire, with a capacity of around 50,000 people.
Captain Luke Donald said: “The Colosseum is iconic when it comes to Rome, built in 80 A.D., I was reading up about it. It is still the biggest amphitheatre ever be to built. It's amazing they were able to do such amazing things back so many years ago.
“So to have that as a backdrop was a great showcase for Italy and a great showcase for Rome.”
Captain Zach Johnson said: “It was an unbelievable morning and to share it with Luke and Diane and my wife was special. I mean, it's almost surreal. The backdrop of the Colosseum, the Temple of Venus, it's something that you just kind of pinch yourself. It was very spectacular, and I appreciate that opportunity, so thank you.”
Following golf in the Colesseum, it was off to the Vatican where the two Captains had a private audience with Pope Francis.
European Captain Donald and United States Captain Johnson gifted the Pontiff a commemorative Ryder Cup with the inscription: “Presented to His Holiness The Pope By Ryder Cup Captains Luke Donald and Zach Johnson”.
The Captains were accompanied by their respective wives and officials from Ryder Cup Europe, the PGA of America and Federazione Italiana Golf for the unique experience.
Luke Donald said: “As Ryder Cup Captain I am fortunate to be able to do many special things, but having a private audience with Pope Francis was certainly a memory that myself and Diane will always cherish.”
Zach Johnson said: “It was a very memorable experience and the honour wasn’t lost on us. Clearly today was a once in a lifetime opportunity. Pope Francis was beyond gracious, warm and welcoming. Kim and I will never forget our Vatican morning.”
Marco Simone Golf & Country Club will host the 2023 Ryder Cup from September 26 to October 1, 2023.
For the first time, the Ryder Cup venue will also host the Singles matches of the Junior Ryder Cup, featuring 24 of the most promising junior amateur players from Europe and the United States. That will take place on Thursday September 28, on the eve of the Ryder Cup itself, with Golf Nazionale, the venue for the first two days of foursomes and fourballs between male and female juniors from on Tuesday September 26 and Wednesday September 27.
A group of more than 40 Members of The Club at Castiglion del Bosco will be at the final day’s play of the Ryder Cup on October 1, enjoying official hospitality and watching the action, when Europe will try to regain the Ryder Cup following defeat at Whistling Straits last year.
To watch a video of Ryder Cup to Go celebrations, watch the official video ‘Looking back on an incredible week in the Eternal City’: https://www.rydercup.com/news-media/looking-back-on-an-incredible-week-in-the-eternal-city
• More information https://www.rydercup.com
All photos Getty Images for Ryder Cup & @Vatican Media