About 40,000 fans descended on Medinah's country club Friday to watch golf's elite players open the 39th Ryder Cup, and the west suburban Chicago town was ready.
More than 4,000 volunteers assembled very early Friday in Medinah's specially made city of pavilions, tents, concession stands and TV studios ahead of the first matches. The 2012 Ryder Cup kicked off at 7:20 a.m. with Graeme McDowell and Rory McIlroy playing for Europe and Jim Furyk and Brandt Snedeker teeing off for the United States.
Volunteer coordinator Melissa Brady said it took two years of planning to get to this point, though it took only a fraction of that time to sign up folks to help out. Last July, all 4,200 available volunteer slots were filled in a mere hour with people from 48 states and 14 countries and a waiting list of 300.
"It's great to have diversity all over the golf course," Brady said.
In the end that's what the Ryder Cup boils down to: Europe and the United States coming together for a shot at golf course bragging rights.
This tournament is much rowdier compared to other matches. Songs, chants and colorful costumes will all be on display during the next three days. Considering fans shelled out big bucks to attend -- as of Tuesday, a three-day pass was going for an average of $908 on the secondary market, more than re-sold tickets for the 2010 NFC Championship Game at Soldier Field -- they're undoubtedly excited.
With that in mind European captain Jose Maria Olazabal reminded crowds during Thursday's opening ceremony to be respectful.
"Chicago is a passionate city," Olazabal said. "We know you will be as strong in support for your team. But I believe you will honor the courtesy of sportsmanship that is the bedrock of Ryder Cup."
U.S. captain Davis Love III had the same message, telling attendees, "These matches are not life and death. Golf has to be played with a certain spirit of graciousness or it's not golf at all."
It will be a tough competition, though. Olazabal is a two-time Masters champion, in 1994 and 1999. Love III on the American side has partaken in this competition six times.
Which side will take the cup? Let the games begin.