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Ryder Cup Opening Ceremony kicks off event

They don't have opening ceremonies for the Masters or the U.S. Open. They may call them "majors," but they are major only in comparison to other golf tournaments.

No, they save the pomp and ceremony for the international events of Olympic proportions. And when the bagpipes and brass bands come out to play, spectators and contestants alike know that they're in for something special.

"It is unlikely that Samuel Ryder could have envisioned that his endowment of a gold chalice could grow into what we have here this week," PGA of America president Will Mann said as the Ryder Cup opened Thursday.

With bagpipes and brass, classic rock and a crooner, flybys and flag-raisings and six national anthems -- for competitors from France, Ireland, Spain, Sweden, Britain and the United States -- the 33rd Ryder Cup matches opened with the extravagance befitting an event that has become the biggest in golf.

After playing their final practice round in the morning, the golfers left the course in the hands of Glenn Frey -- the first Eagle of the tournament -- who started things with a concert spiced with songs by his former band.

With an hour-long concert, Frey entertained the throngs that filled three sets of bleachers and crowded the practice range fairway under sunny, blue skies that rescued the third day of practice from Wednesday's rain. If The Country Club has ever rocked before -- and it's quite possible that the staid and stodgy site never has -- it has certainly never rocked like this.

Still, it seemed more fitting with the club's tradition-bound image when a video montage of Ryder Cups past, as well as clips from the current players' careers, played on the giant video screen, accompanied by Frank Sinatra's "Here's to the Winners."

Like the rest of those who came to the podium, the PGA president stressed the tradition of sportsmanship in golf's biggest event, rather than the stress of the competition that has been known to make the players' knees buckle from tee to green.

In her invocation, The Right Rev. Barbara Harris noted that victory was a secondary goal.

"May all bogeys, birdies and eagles remind us, contestants and spectators alike, that in this competition ... all can be winners, no matter the score," she said.

In a procession worthy of any of the ivy-covered colleges that dot New England, the teams marched in side by side, wearing matching suits -- navy blue for the Europeans and gray for the Americans.

After European captain Mark James introduced his squad, U.S. captain Ben Crenshaw did the same, deviating from the program only to introduce five past U.S. Ryder Cup captains in the crowd, from 1965 leader Byron Nelson to Tom Kite, who led the Americans to a surprising defeat in '97.

Crenshaw then turned to the visitors, who are looking to win their third consecutive Cup, and welcomed them "in the spirit of what Samuel Ryder started."

"And I hope that spirit never dies," he said.


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