Ryder Cup heroes: No.2 – Ronan Rafferty

The Northern Irishman on beating the Open champion and retaining the trophy in 1989

The Opening Ceremony
RAY Floyd described his team as the ‘12 best golfers in the world’ but that was just a load of flannel. It’s a long week, there is a schedule at 15-minute increments for every day.  

You would play nine holes, then have your picture taken and so on. You do get out of your normal routine but there is such a buzz throughout the whole week.

Being A Rookie
THE good thing was that I had made the team early in June. I was on a high and playing very well. It was great to be involved, you got to be fitted for clothes and you were part of the players’ meetings so it was not too much of a new thing.

I was part of a brilliant team with Seve, Faldo, Langer and Olly. People forget that Sandy Lyle made the team and withdrew because of form concerns. There were already set pairings and there wasn’t a lot of room for new partnerships so I was delighted to be paired with Bernhard Langer in the opening foursomes. 

Potentially we were a strong team but we lost the first three holes and lost on the 17th. At European Tour events you might have crowds of 400 people, now there were 45,000 people there and it was eight deep.
You swap stories of worrying about knifing a chip into the gallery. You think it’s just you but then realise it’s everyone. Being Rested
I PLAYED again with Christy O’Connor Jr in the Saturday foursomes as there were loads of Irish over and they would make a huge amount of noise. We played OK but putted badly and lost again to Calcavecchia and Ken Green. 

I was then rested for the afternoon but that was fine with me, I had the utmost respect for Tony Jacklin and he handled leaving players out perfectly.

By the time we went back into the team room I was given a real lift at being sent out fourth in the singles. I was in this position of confidence and Jacko still had faith in me. 

So, from a tiny bit of a downer, I was raring to go again. The mood was positive, you are on a permanent high and I was up against the current Open champion Calcavecchia again.

Beating Calcavecchia 
WE had a great game. I was one up playing the last and hit the shot of my dreams, a high draw onto the fairway. 

But then a guy wanders out with a red flag as Payne Stewart was still splashing around in the water hazard.
Calc then hits the biggest sky you have ever seen, he has killed it down every fairway but has suddenly hit an 18-handicap full-on sky. 

We saw Paul Azinger hit it in the same water and still find the greenside bunker with his next to beat Seve so I had visions of Calc doing the same. But his third went in the water and he walks over and picks my ball up. 

I would like to say I wished I had played the approach but, with 181 yards left, I was thinking of hitting a 5 wood. I have a great picture of Calc hugging me and he is in tears on my shoulder.

The O’Connor 2 Iron
I WAS playing ahead of Christy and to just think of hitting a 2 iron at that moment was incredible. The place went wild and Freddie Couples then half-shanked a 9 iron into a bunker. 

I always say that when you are under extreme pressure things either go very slowly or very quickly and, for me, they were going very quickly. 

We had one hand on the trophy but then lost the last four matches and the win was snatched out of our grasp. 

But, still, there was the elation, we had retained the cup, for me there was the exhilaration of winning a point and, most of all, it was all over! You didn’t have to hit another shot, the memories come back and you swap stories of worrying about knifing a chip into the gallery. You think it’s just you but then realise it’s everyone.

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