In just two weeks, Ryder Cup play will begin at Gleneagles in Scotland. Taking place every other year, the PGA of America team faces off against the PGA European Tour in match play. Nine US team members are selected based on performance and the Team captain has an additional three “captain’s picks.”
For the 2014 Ryder Cup, nine players qualified on points/performance (Bubba Watson, Rickie Fowler, Jim Furyk, Jimmy Walker, Phil Mickelson, Matt Kuchar, Jordan Spieth, Patrick Reed and Zach Johnson). And Team Captain Tom Watson selected three additional picks: Keegan Bradley, Webb Simpson and Hunter Mahan.
Here on St. Simons Island, Georgia we’re proud to say this is home to two Ryder Cup Team Members: Zach Johnson and Matt Kuchar. During the 2012 Ryder Cup, St. Simons Island had four Team Members: Captain Davis Love III, Zach Johson, Matt Kuchar and Brandt Snedeker. At the time, the New York Times penned an article crowning St. Simons Island “A New Capital for US Golf” as they pondered how an Island with a population of 13,000 could be home to four Ryder Cup Team members.
St. Simons Island is actually home to a dozen PGA TOUR Players and many more train on St. Simons Island at the Sea Island Golf Performance Center.
Articles often name Sea Island as their hometown we can see why—the line is easily blurred. These two neighboring islands are part of a group of barrier islands called the “Golden Isles.” Sea Island is the smaller location and home to The Cloister Resort. Separated by a narrow inlet, neighboring St. Simons Island is where the players live and train.
Davis Love III was the first to arrive as a teenager, and he’s now known to the rest of the gang as “Uncle Davis.” Love set the precedent for being a laid back professional athlete in a small town.
From the New York Times: “Love, 48, who has lived here since he was a teenager, holds dear his ability to blend into his surroundings. ‘He grew up as Davis Love III the guy,’ said Brannen H. Veal, the director of golf for the Sea Island Golf Club. ‘He didn’t grow up as Davis Love III the superstar.’”
Known as the “Sea Island Mafia,” the group has a lot to say about why they choose to live on the Island. They are first drawn by the world-class golf and golf instruction. Then they realize that beyond the golf, it’s simply a great place to live:
Zach Johnson in the Augusta Chronicle: I came up here to practice, and I’m thinking, ‘Man, I could live here,’ From a work standpoint, I’ve got three or four places I can go and I can get a lot of work done. So, I mean from a golf standpoint, it’s second to none. It’s one of the top destinations, as far as I know.” “…the beauty of the place is everything else. It’s the people, it’s the mom-and-pop shops, it’s the food.”
“It’s a small town, which we like. The community has embraced us, too. I mean, we’re just part of the community. We’re athletes, but I don’t have to worry about where I go. I’m just part of the community like everybody else.”
Matt Kuchar in the Augusta Chronicle: “It feels like a bit of a throwback in time. You feel OK to let the kids ride their bikes down the street.”
Jonathan Byrd tells Golf Digest how he and his wife ended up on St. Simons: Davis Love III “gave me a few recommendations and showed me around, and we kind of fell in love with it.”
With all the love they’ve given St. Simons Island, we’ll be sure to return the sentiment during Ryder Cup play September 24-28. St. Simons Island will be cheering on Matt Kuchar, Zach Johnson and all of the US Team.