PGA of America officials said yesterday they will do everything they can to keep players on either team from being heckled during future Ryder Cup competitions in the United States and Europe. They also blamed incidents this past weekend at the Country Club in Brookline, Mass., on what chief executive officer Jim Awtrey called "a vocal but very small minority."
Meantime, as expected, Ben Crenshaw said he will not return as the U.S. team captain, citing the biennial event's physical and emotional toll. "I unequivocally can say no. I can't do this. Look at me, I'm emaciated," Crenshaw told the Associated Press. "It took two years off my life. It seems like I've been on the telephone for a year."
As for the crowd-control problems this past weekend, Awtrey said in a telephone interview: "I thought it was horrible conduct, there's no question about that. We'll be addressing that problem with European officials when we meet again at Augusta in April. We've got to take those people out of the crowd and out the gate. But I don't think what happened on Sunday represents all the American fans. It was unfortunate, but it happens."
European team captain Mark James was quoted in several British newspapers yesterday as saying European golfers might refuse to play in future Ryder Cups in the United States because of the abuse they received from fans this weekend.
James said he fears fights will occur unless action is taken to curb the type of celebratory behavior by players and fans that occurred during the Americans' 14 1/2 to 13 1/2 comeback victory Sunday. James also said a ban on alcohol at major golf events might be necessary.
"A lot of players will not be bothered competing in America again," James said Monday when his team arrived in London. "Certainly that is the case with me. It's not something I would look forward to. We don't need to be treated like this."
Awtrey said he could understand the Europeans' frustration, but added he believed the problems can be solved. "We'll certainly look at the alcohol policy, and if that's a problem, we'll address it," he said. "We'll do whatever we can to protect the integrity of the matches and the players. . . . We have to deal with people who think they can abuse the players. . . . Our own players were upset with the conduct and people definitely were removed."
PGA of America President Will Mann said he did not believe James was advocating European players to boycott future Ryder Cups in the United States. He also said he was given no indication by James or any other European officials that players would refuse to participate at the 2003 Ryder Cup at Oakland Hills Country Club in Birmingham, Mich. The 2001 Cup will be played at the Belfry Golf Club in England.
Mann and Awtrey also said they could understand the Europeans' unhappiness with the celebration at the 17th green after the United States' Justin Leonard made a 45-foot birdie putt that ultimately secured the Cup. American players, wives and caddies ran onto the green and mobbed Leonard, even though Jose Maria Olazabal still had a chance to keep Europe's hopes alive by making a 30-foot putt. He eventually missed.
Leonard and Crenshaw apologized for the celebration, an obvious breach of etiquette, on Sunday. But U.S. player Tom Lehman also pointed out that European players had been exuberant in their celebrations during the first two days of this competition, and during previous Ryder Cups in Europe. "I'm not going to apologize for being excited," he said.
"I tend to agree with Tom Lehman," said Mann, who was on the 17th green Sunday when Leonard made his putt. "It was a spontaneous reaction over so much energy that had built up over three days. There was no intent to cause a problem, and our people calmed down right away.
"Things like that have happened on both sides, and this certainly didn't change the outcome. Gosh, you make a putt like that, what else are you supposed to do? We just need to recognize the circumstances and the environment."
Mann had a harsher view on heckling fans: "The first time it happens, you remove them from the property, on both sides of the ocean," he said. "The Cup doesn't need it, the players don't deserve it. I didn't see a lot of it over the week, and I walked with the players quite a bit all three days. I heard some Americans being heckled, too."
Still, James's wife, Jane, said a young fan spit at her Sunday. Europe's Colin Montgomerie said his 70-year-old father left the course Sunday because of comments from the crowd about his son.
"It was just awful," Jane James said.
Mark James said the Americans' celebration at the 17th green "paled in comparison" to the behavior of fans toward the European players.
"If I had been playing myself, I might have lost my temper completely," he said. "Cheering when you miss putts or hit into bunkers is one thing. But personal abuse is something different. We are going to get into a situation where fights will break out if we don't stop this thing now."