US Ryder Cup team visits White House

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WASHINGTON ' Members of the 2008 U.S. Ryder Cup Team and Captain Paul Azinger received a warm White House welcome Monday afternoon by President George W. Bush, who declared that he was an avid follower of 'every minute' of the march to victory by the first American team since 1999 to capture golf's pre-eminent event.
 
Seven of the 12-member U.S. Team were joined by Azinger and assistant captain Raymond Floyd in meeting Bush, who was joined in the Oval Office by Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice.
 
'This was the icing on the cake for me and the players,' said Azinger, who said that he was making his fourth White House trip, but first as a Captain. 'I was really proud of what the players were able to accomplish on a stage of this size, one of the biggest stages in the world when you consider there were some 600 million viewers. It was a great honor to have the president invite us, and to show how much he cared for and followed our team.'
 
Azinger said that Bush, in first speaking about the Oval Office, told a story about how he had chosen the pattern of carpet for one reason.
 
'The president said that he wanted the new carpeting to 'scream optimism,' ' said Azinger. 'That story stuck with me and it is something that I will remember for a long time. I said to the president how much I appreciated the joy that he and his staff had for us. He spoke to us from the heart, which was very touching, and I remember telling him how much I appreciate all his efforts to keep our country safe.'
 
The U.S. Team was accompanied by PGA of America President Jim Remy, Vice President Allen Wronowski, Honorary President Brian Whitcomb and Chief Executive Officer Joe Steranka.
 
The U.S. Team was represented by Chad Campbell, Stewart Cink, Ben Curtis, Jim Furyk, J.B. Holmes, Hunter Mahan and Boo Weekley.
 
'I don't know what words you can use other than how inspirational it was to be with the president. I wish that everyone had the same opportunity to get a chance to meet him in a setting like this,' said Remy. 'It was a fantastic day. The president spoke about how he came into office with the same set of values that he will take with him. The whole experience was like a dream and you want to pinch yourself.'
 
The U.S. Team presented Bush with a personalized Ryder Cup golf bag, the same Sunday red golf shirt and sweater vest worn by the team and a Ryder Cup money clip.
 
Weekley, who wore a big smile as he entered the White House, had one word for the visit.
 
'Wow!' he said. 'I can't believe that I was able to walk through this son-of-a-gun,' said Weekley, who despite his 'rookie' status entering the Ryder Cup became a quick team and fan favorite.
 
'There's so much stuff here, so many pictures and so much history. I was honored to meet the president. He's like one of us. The only thing that would top off this year any better for me would be to go out and get me a big deer. I'm headed to Missouri and Illinois to do some hunting.'
 
Cink delivered a most unusual, yet meaningful gift - a jar of homemade pickles. The pickles are the gift for participants in a charity golf tournament that Cink and PGA Professional Chad Parker of East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta have co-hosted for several years to benefit The Healing Place, a grief counseling center for children who have lost parents.
 
'I was too nervous to know what to say to the president about the gift of pickles,' said Cink, 'So I let him come by and then gave him the story. I let him know how much I appreciated his service to the country.'
 
'Our Captain and the players created this opportunity for us. We heard the president say how he had entered his office with certain beliefs and convictions,' said Honorary PGA President Brian Whitcomb, who had presented the Ryder Cup last Sept. 21 to Azinger, following the victory over Europe at Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, Ky. 'This was the most inspirational day that I can remember.'