Everybody at ISM has the right to feel very proud this morning as we salute our five colleagues who qualified for the Ryder Cup. Darren Clarke, Lee Westwood, David Howell, Ian Poulter and Paul McGinley will all represent Europe against America in Detroit in just over two weeks.
With the exception of Ian, the four others all turned professional with us and Howeller has now completed the very impressive amateur/pro double of Walker and Ryder Cups. Darren and Lee both qualified some time ago, but for the others it has been a nerve-twitching time. What has impressed me more than anything is just how good they have been under the gun, when the intensity of the qualifying process has been at its highest.
Howeller and Poults have had to have one eye on their position and the other over their shoulder as the pressure has grown, but Paul has really had to play his way into the team. He has shown just how much he wanted to be there to build on his heroics of last time when he sank the winning putt. He desperately wanted to re-live what started two years ago.
As the final round unfolded in Germany on Sunday, it looked like Freddie Jacobson may upset at least one of our boys and when Poults took an eight on the 10th, the Englishman's dream suddenly assumed nightmare proportions. Playing-partner Clarkey put an arm on his shoulder, offered words of encouragement and Poulter did the rest - two eagles and two birdies in his final eight holes showed just how much he wanted it. What happened said a lot about both of them.
Howeller is not as flamboyant a character as Poults, but there is quiet steel about him and making Ryder Cup has been his biggest goal for some time. I am convinced he will be one of the stars of the European team, in whatever format he gets his chance because of the way he has faced and survived the pressure of getting into it.
We very nearly had half the team because Graeme McDowell came close and finished his bid in Germany with a career-low round of 62. The experience he has gathered trying to qualify for this match will serve him well and I feel sure he will be there at Ireland's K-Club in 2006.
So it's off to Detroit we go, full of hope and expectation. I will give
them but one piece of advice - enjoy it.