Ryder put off until fall '02

PGA sought delay amid safety concerns at biennial golf event

Matter of `common sense'

Cup, set for this month in England, postponed 1st time since WWII


September 17, 2001|By Don Markus | Don Markus,SUN STAFF

The 34th Ryder Cup, which was scheduled to be played later this month in England, has been postponed until next year.

Citing concerns with travel safety as well as the security of those playing in and attending the event at The Belfry, outside Birmingham, officials from the PGA of America announced yesterday that the European Ryder Cup Board has agreed to postpone the event until next September.

Though other sports likely will be playing games and other golf tournaments will have been held by the time the three-day event was scheduled to begin on Sept. 28, those running the Ryder Cup believed last week's terrorist attacks would greatly affect the competition.

It is the first time since World War II that the Ryder Cup will not be held as scheduled.

"The PGA of America is very appreciative of the support and understanding expressed by European Ryder Cup officials," PGA of America chief executive Jim Awtrey said in a statement. "We understand this is a hardship for them to reschedule the matches next year ... but it was important to us that the matches be played and not canceled."

Both of the teams' non-playing captains, who have agreed to keep their 12-player squads intact, concurred with yesterday's decision.

"The decision to postpone the Ryder Cup matches this year is one of common sense," said European captain Sam Torrance. "What happened last week in America has put the Ryder Cup and everything else in perspective. I am desperately heartbroken for all the people involved in this terrible tragedy."

Said U.S. captain Curtis Strange: "The tragedy in America caused us all to reflect and evaluate our own lives and relationships with family and friends. With regards to this year's Ryder Cup matches, my concern was always centered on the right thing to do. The PGA of America's decision to postpone the matches is appropriate in light of this situation."

The decision follows the cancellation of three PGA Tour-run events last week, including the $5 million American Express Championships in St. Louis. The European Tour will hold the Lancome Trophy tournament in Paris this week, but many American players have chosen not to go.

Steve Loy, who manages U.S. Ryder Cup members Phil Mickelson and Mark Calcavecchia, told The Times of London that his clients had raised major concern about being a target in such a wide-open venue.

"To be frank about it, a golf tournament would be an easy place to commit mass murder, no matter how tight the security," Loy said before the event was postponed. "My players want to take part in the Ryder Cup, but they have to put their families first. Phil has a baby due about the time of the Ryder Cup, and Mark has children as well. You're asking them to put a lot on the line."

Said Andrew Chandler, the manager for three European team members: "There's no way Tiger's safety can be guaranteed against people who don't care about killing themselves. You can't protect the guy. In the middle of the fairway, he's too vulnerable."

Tiger Woods had pulled out of the Lancome Cup last week, citing concerns over air travel as well out of respect of those who had been killed at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and the airline crash in Pennsylvania.

Dennis Satyshur, director of golf and the head professional at Caves Valley Golf Club in Owings Mills, applauded yesterday's announcement. Satyshur served as an assistant to U.S. captain Tom Kite in the 1997 Ryder Cup in Valderrama, Spain.

"I'm glad to hear the Ryder Cup is being postponed," said Satyshur. "As great an event as it is and as much as it means to the players, if there's risk involved, it's not worth it."

Caves Valley is also in the midst of planning next year's Senior Open, scheduled for late June.

"Hopefully by the time we get to the plate, we'll be in a more secure situation where this is no risk," said Satyshur. "If the Senior Open was next week, it would have been canceled, too. Hopefully in the next eight or nine months, things will be back to normal and we'll go on with the event."

Wire reports contributed to this article.

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