Jason Deegan is spending the week on a tour around Ireland's golf courses. On Friday, he stopped in to watch a day of Solheim Cup action.
COUNTY MEATH, Ireland – The flags, patriotic songs, chanting and roars heard 'round the golf course.
All the elements that make the Ryder Cup so special were on display during Friday's morning matches at the Solheim Cup at Killeen Castle just outside Dublin. My first Solheim Cup experience has been a fun one.
The best part? All this excitement comes without the hassles of the massive crowds you see at the Ryder Cup. There were no traffic jams heading to the venue. You could watch as much golf as you wanted, almost from the front row.
And there was no problem moving from place to place to see the action. I always thought the Ryder Cup couldn't be beat for atmosphere – and it can't – but the Solheim Cup comes pretty close.
'It's unbelievable,' said Bonnie Brandt, who traveled with 32 friends from Albuquerque, N.M. 'I hear it gets rowdier and rowdier as we get into the weekend.'
Solheim Cup crowds are smaller than the Ryder Cup, obviously, but they're no less into it. Everywhere you look, people are decked out in red-white-and-blue or European blue. Everything in Sharon Talarico's wardrobe showcased the American flag: her bejeweled hat, red jacket, blue sweater and colored scarf.
'I love the exuberance,' said Talarico, who lives in Richmond, Va. 'Golf is a little tame for me. The Solheim gives you a chance to cheer and wear bling. You are all allowed to display favoritism.'
There are more women than men, too, by a wide margin. That's not a bad thing.
'There are a lot more females here,' said Brandt, who is already planning on attending in 2013 at the Colorado Golf Club. 'They are all buddy-buddy. At a Ryder Cup, you tend to get pushed (around). Here everybody is more friendly. You let the smaller person move in front. It is much easier to move around.'
I loved being able to go where I pleased. I joined the thrilling morning match won by Paula Creamer and Brittany Lincicome on the 17th hole, the start of a dreadful European meltdown by Karen Stupples and Mel Reid. I walked right up to the ropes to get a great view of Creamer's perfect tee shot. With a little hustle, I claimed a spot along the ropes again for her second shot. That's unheard of in a Ryder Cup mosh pit.
U.S. fans are definitely outnumbered, but they are making their presence felt. Before the opening tee shots of the afternoon matches, Americans sitting in the grandstands belted out a stirring rendition of 'God Bless America,' thanks to sheet music passed out to the crowd. The European fans even applauded afterward, proving there's a little more goodwill here than a Ryder Cup. Maybe that's just the good-hearted nature of the Irish hosts shining through once again.
Andrea Garland and Lynn Schreder traveled from Iowa to experience it all.
'The crowds and the loyalty to the countries, it's energizing,' Garland said. 'You get to see some great competitive golf.'