The signs are written in German and English here. The picturesque streets are lined with cottages with sloping roofs, wooden balconies and carved ornaments. Red flags adorned with white crosses flutter in the breeze.
“Welcome to New Glarus,” waved the roadside notice board. “The American“ Little Switzerland ”. “
If there’s one locality that would draw Europeans to this week’s Ryder Cup, it would be this charming southern Wisconsin village, a two-hour drive from the rugged, windswept fairways of the Whistling Strait.
But, in a year when COVID-19 restrictions make international travel particularly difficult, Little Switzerland cannot be of much help to visitors.
“I don’t think a lot of people here will be supporting the European team,” said Ginger Blum, who runs the bar at the Olde Tavern in Puempel, where the beer of choice is the New Glarus Spotted Cow, a beer sold only in Wisconsin.
Unlike typical golf tournaments, the Ryder Cup is loud and patriotic, with fans flaunting their allegiance with their hats, jackets, sweatshirts, and more. Two men dressed in an American flag stood near the ropes along the 10th fairway during Wednesday’s practice rounds, smoking cigars and shouting for their favorite players.
Spectators could play a role this week in a biennial tournament in which the Americans – despite a significant advantage in the average world rankings – have suffered nine losses in the last 12 meetings.
“The American fans are generally very good to me and give me a lot of support,” said Englishman Lee Westwood, who is playing his 11th Ryder Cup. “Probably different this week, but I understand that. It’s different this week. It’s more like a football or basketball game where people have picked sides and you cheer your side on, which I appreciate. This is the raison d’être of the Ryder Cup.
The excitement for the tournament is palpable in Wisconsin, including New Glarus, where 57 residents – many of the public Edelweiss Chalet Country Club – volunteered for the event. Most work on # 14, the northernmost hole on the links course, which borders Lake Michigan.
“It’s a two hour drive away, so coming in here you’re like, ‘Why am I doing this?’ “said Mark Losenegger, a retiree of the US Air Force from New Glarus.” You come in here and you go, ‘Okay! Let’s go!’ It’s really fun.”
Losenegger, who is of Swiss descent, is co-captain on No 14, which requires him to make sure everything goes smoothly with the change of 14 marshals working the hole at all times.
“I keep telling everyone it’s almost like being a pilot,” he said. “You have hours and hours of boredom punctuated by minutes of pure terror.”
Northern Irishman Rory McIlroy, who was competing in his sixth Ryder Cup, admitted that, since most PGA Tour players live in the United States, it doesn’t feel as much like an ‘away game’ for them. European players than before.
“If anything has changed over the years with the Ryder Cup, it’s that the European and American teams are probably closer than they have ever been individually,” said McIlroy. “We all spend a lot of time here. We mainly play on the PGA TOUR. So there is a part of it.
“But still, you know you are – there’s a sea of red all over here. It looks like an American Ryder Cup.
His European teammate Ian Poulter predicts that 98% of fans will support American players.
“As much as we feel comfortable as a team, to know that we are underdogs, we have to play very special this week to get the job done,” said Poulter. “It’s pretty rewarding at the end of the week if we can do it.”
This event was supposed to take place in 2020 but was canceled due to the pandemic. The fact that the galleries are full this year and that the event is relatively normal only increases the excitement of the players.
“If anyone’s a fan of the United States, if someone really doesn’t like me, they still want me to win my game,” said Patrick Cantlay, a former UCLA debutant. Ryder Cup. “So that’s one of the best aspects of this format, of this team golf, of this event.
“Therefore, someone on the other side of the pond can love me and they are rooting so hard against me. So that makes the stakes much higher. “
Xander Sc Chaudele, who won a gold medal at a non-spectator Olympics, said he felt particularly American – in part because of the international flair of the rest of his family.
“I am almost alone in my family,” he said. “My brother was born in Stuttgart, my father was born in Stuttgart, my mother was born in Taiwan and raised in Japan. I think I’m the only born citizen in my family so I can say I’m proud to be an American.
For them, family ties matter the most.
“I think my dad is just cheering me on,” ScHotele said. “I don’t think you’ll catch him saying he supports Europe at some point. But let me know if he does.
The people of New Glarus happily embrace their heritage. The main street is adorned with a 12-foot-wide floral clock, a product of Swiss artisans. As early as 1905, a proposal was presented to the inhabitants of the city for Limburg cheese to be declared legal tender for the payment of all debts.
Still, there is no doubt about the rooting interests of this place. It’s all of the United States.
Little Switzerland does not remain on the fence.
This story originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times.