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Born for the role of captain

One up with two to play isn’t a bad state of affairs to be in on the 17th tee. And if you divide the Ryder Cup process into three parts, namely the selection of the captain, his choosing the extra players to fill out his team and then the playing of the match, it can be said that the efforts to make Europe’s team at Gleneagles next year as successful as possible are just that, one up with two to go. The selection of Paul McGinley to lead Europe, the first of the three processes, rightly received acclaim.

Still to be decided are the selection process for the match and how much room for manoeuvre McGinley will be given for the his choice of players not in the team by qualification. This last seems to be a moveable feast these days. Four years ago, Colin Montgomerie changed the status quo to give himself three picks, and two years ago José Maria Olazábal changed it again to two. On the eve of a meeting with European Tour officials last month, McGinley indicated that he might want four.

Now that’s what I call captaincy. McGinley is prepared to have more players of his own choice than his two predecessors, thereby risking criticism. It is another reason for applauding him. Selection for the Ryder Cup shouldn’t be by Buggins’ Turn, specially when so many European Tour players are competing on the PGA Tour in the US. “Perhaps that is going to make it more difficult for the very best players in Europe to qualify for the team” he mused recently. “Do I needs more picks because of that?”

Little more than two months into his new job, McGinley continues to demonstrate why he was precisely the right man to be leading Europe in the defence of the handsome gold trophy. He is sure-footed in deciding what to do and what not to do as a result of having been on so many teams himself. He clearly relishes team play and captaincy, having had such a good grounding with the Seve Trophy teams, among others. He is comfortable with the media. Actually, he is comfortable with everyone. Is there a more popular man on Tour?

McGinley’s mobile almost melted from its excessive use in the hours that followed his selection as captain. At lunchtime the next day he had answered 250 messages; and another 150 were unanswered. Soon after McGinley’s appointment I heard the story of a couple who had bought a house from him. He was such a gentleman that at the 59th minute of the 11th hour he reduced the price – and then left them a year’s supply of golf balls.

Though McGinley, who was 46 last December, has been on tour since 1992, he has not been a regular winner and not had as much public scrutiny as some of his peers. Therefore, though there are certain facts that are wellknown about him, there may be others that are less so. Allow me to fill you in on one or two details.

Perhaps you did not know that McGinley worked for the European Economic Community, as it was then known, for six months in the 1980s; that he and a university friend started ClubstoHire (a savvy move in light of the savage excess charges airlines are levying for carrying golf clubs) – in a little over two years, the company has outlets at 14 airports throughout Europe and is considering a move into the US; that he has three golf academies in Ghana, west Africa, supported by the R&A and set up in conjunction with Tulloh Oil, an Irish exploration company; that he spent 39 days in Ghana last year and has played several times with the king, an English-educated member of the Ashanti tribe; that Ghana was the fastest-growing economy in the world in 2012; that he is involved with Eligo, a company that charges £10,000 annually to each of 100 members in return for membership and playing rights at clubs such as Valderrama, Old Head and Turnberry?

There is a golfer on tour in the US known as ‘Two Gloves Gainey’ because he wears a glove on either hand.

Let’s call the new Ryder Cup captain ‘Two Degrees McGinley’, because that is what he has – one in marketing from an Irish college and another in international business and finance from San Diego university. He is academically one of the brightest of Europe’s recent captains. He scours the financial pages of newspapers. He is constantly searching for new ideas. He is curious, restless, always pushing on an open door.

On the eve of the 2002 Ryder Cup, I wrote in The Times that "McGinley had.....a trophy wife, a trophy house, and a trophy car. What he didn't have were any trophies." Since then he has won the 2003 Smurfit Irish PGA and the 2005 Volvo Masters as well as holing the winning putt in the 2002 Ryder Cup and being on the victorious side in 2004 and 2006. Now he has a chance to captain Europe to victory in next year's Ryder Cup and hold up the most famous team trophy in golf.

More power to his elbow.

March 2013

Reproduced with kind permission of Golf International Magazine


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