MEMBERS at Fleet’s North Hants Golf Club are cheering a European Ryder Cup victory to the rafters in support of clubmate Justin Rose this weekend.
Dozens of the 560-strong membership watched with baited breath before European captain Luke Donald paired Rose with Scottish rookie Robert McIntyre in Friday’s afternoon fourball, having sat him out of the foursomes – as Europe try to wrestle the Ryder Cup back from America’s grip.
And they were rewarded by the 43-year-old who grew up in Hook – and who now lives in Surrey, not far from his childhood club – holing a crucial biridie putt on 18 to earn a half against US Open champion Wyndham Clark and Max Homa.
Rose rose to fame as a young teenage amateur at North Hants GC in the mid-1990s.
He became England’s first U16 and U18 champion in the same season, before becoming the youngest player to be picked to play in the Walker Cup – the amateur game’s equivalent of the Ryder Cup.
Neil Dawson – who led Hampshire’s elite amateurs for two years as county captain before standing down at the end of last year to become North Hants’ club captain – couldn’t wait for Friday’s foursomes to get under way.
Neil said: “Justin will tell you, as will any of the stalwarts of the European Ryder Cup team over the last 30 years, there is nothing like the experience of hitting that first shot on the first tee in front of thousands of fans – it’s even more nerve-wracking than standing over a putt to win a Major.”
Europe have won nine times out of the last 13 occasions, and not lost at home since 1993, before this week’s 44th Ryder Cup, in Rome.
But after a record defeat at Whistling Straits in 2021, the pundits have been predicting another comfortable victory for the USA when Italy hosts the Ryder Cup for the first time.
Europe’s stars – led by Jon Rahm, Viktor Hovland and Rory McIlroy had other ideas though as Luke Donald’s team got off to a flying start, winning the foursomes 4-0, ending the day 61/2-11/2 in front as the US failed to win a single game in a day for the first time in the competition’s long history.
Rose has played in five out of the last seven Ryder Cups but missed out in America, in 2021, after a drop in form.
Neil added: “Justin was determined to play his way back on to the European team, and worked really hard to get back to his best this year.
“He won at Pebble Beach in California, in January, to show Luke he should be one of his five picks.
“I couldn’t wait for the Ryder Cup to get under way on Friday morning, and everyone at the club is cheering Justin and Europe to win all the way over the weekend after such a brilliant start.”
The club where Justin is still a member held their Captain’s Charity Pro-Am, in aid of Motor Neurone Disease research, on Friday.
Teams started arriving from 7.30am – as play got under way at Marco Simone GC, on the outskirts of the Italian capital.
Neil, who works as the senior collections manager at Staines-based Novuna Bank, said: “Our players were tucking into bacon rolls and watched the golf for an hour, or so, before we had a shotgun start.
“We came in for dinner at 2pm to watch the Ryder Cup action on our big screen in the clubhouse.
“Watching a big sporting event on a giant screen with your mates is part of modern life now.
“I am sure the clubhouse will be busy on Saturday and Sunday – especially as Europe are now set for a repeat of their famous win in Paris five years ago.”
The Ryder Cup was a VIP visitor back in April, when Europe Ryder Cup director Guy Kinnings brought the famous gold trophy to the Minley Road club during the annual dinner for the Hampshire Hog.
The Hog is North Hants’ nationally-ranked amateur competition– held every spring and won by Rose in 1995, along with a number of Ryder Cup stars including Masters and Open winner Sandy Lyle and Hampshire’s Steve Richardson.
Neil added: “Guy spoke a lot about Europe’s preparations for the Ryder Cup and how he thought Luke Donald would prove to be a wonderful captain.
“He thinks the stats analysis being carried out by vice-captain Edoardo Molinari will prove to be Europe’s secret weapon.
“Since then Luke has picked the Swedish wonderkid Ludvig Aberg, after his shock win at the European Masters, in Switzerland, last month.
“Justin made lots of positive noises about the rookie – even though he has only played nine professional events, prompting some media pundits to suggest he might get paired with Aberg.
“He was the World No. 1 amateur during a stellar US college career – like Rahm and Hovland but in the end Luke plumped to pair Justin with another rookie Robert McIntyre – seven years ago he lost to Hampshire’s Scott Gregory in the final of the Amateur Championship.”
In the build-up to this week’s biennial gladiatorial golf contest against America, Rose admitted that missing the event in 2021 had been a “kick up the backside” and prompted a lot of soul-searching.
He said he would have an open door for any of the four rookies in Europe’s team, but would only dish out advice to those who sought it.
“If I make them fee comfortable enough that they want to ask a question I’ll do my best to give some persepective. Until that point just let them roll. The youngsters seem very self-assured and you don’t want to talk them out of that.
“They are experiencing everything for the first time which is wonderful. So you just don’t want to impose your thoughts too much,” added Rose, whose team-mates include debutants Sepp Straka, the first Austrian to play in the Ryder Cup, and Danish sensation Nicolai Hojgaard.”
Rose has, of course, won the 2013 US Open and the Olympic Gold Medal when golf returned to the Olympics in Brazil’s Rio de Janeiro in 2016 as well as 10 other PGA Tour victories since moving to the US more than a decade ago.
Dawson said: “The club created the Justin Rose Room in his honour when he won the US Open, with a replica scoreboard from Merion, and mementoes from his career including his Olympic win in Rio in 2016 – and that famous finish as an 18-year-old amateur at The Open.
“The way Justin has turned his game around over the last year to be picked again, shows how much he wants to win a sixth Ryder Cup.
“We might have to look at the layout of the Justin Rose Room if that happens – no, when that happens – on Sunday.”
•The PGA South Region North Hants Captain’s Charity Pro-Am was won by Lee-on-the-Solent’s James Ablett, who shot a four-under par 66 with the team prize won by North Hants members (pictured) Kevin Dupree, Greg Lynch, Padraig Connellan, playing with Kent pro Dan Brown, who carded a total of 12-under.
You can follow live scoring at the Ryder Cup here.