Images of Sheboygan County were set to be broadcast across the globe this weekend when the Ryder Cup came to Whistling Straits.
The biennial golf tournament, which pits the top players from Europe and America against one another, was planned to begin Friday in Kohler. But the event was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic. It’s now scheduled to tee off Sept. 24, 2021.
“We’re hopeful that we will hold it, but all bets are off in terms of what’s going on in the world,” PGA of America CEO Seth Waugh said at a news conference this summer announcing the delay.
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Still, the region is optimistic the large event will aid in its economic recovery from the pandemic.
Marissa Werner, director of sports development for Visit Milwaukee, said the Ryder Cup was expected to bring about $135 million into the local economy this year. Now, she’s excited about the boost southeast Wisconsin could feel next year.
“We continue our work with the PGA, and they are unbelievably excited to be returning, to come back, that we can make this work for everybody next year,” Werner said. “We’ll also be hosting their annual meeting as well.”
Sheboygan doesn’t have a commuter airport so most travelers will fly into nearby cities like Milwaukee. Many fans will stay outside of Sheboygan County, too. A representative from Visit Sheboygan said most local hotel rooms have been booked for years to be used by players, their families and the media. Those reservation blocks have been moved to 2021.
In nearby Elkhart Lake, home to Road America, there’s a long history of residents renting out their homes during big races. The practice dates back to the 1950s, said Kathleen Eickhoff, tourism director for the village of Elkhart Lake.
“At that time, there were not enough accommodations for people to come to the races, so renting out your home is something that’s been going on for many, many years in our area,” she said.
Some Sheboygan County homeowners will look to capitalize on the opportunity next year. A one-bedroom apartment that usually goes for $72 per night on Airbnb is listed at a nightly rate of $500 during the Ryder Cup. A house near Road America that’s typically $575 per night has been bumped up to $1,900 per night during the tournament.
And the impact of next year’s Ryder Cup will outlive the event itself, thanks in part to the landscapes and golf amenities people will see on television, Eickhoff said. According to Sports Media Watch, NBC’s coverage of the 2018 Ryder Cup peaked at more than 4 million viewers.
“It really opens up a great opportunity for our communities to welcome new people to the area, to experience this beautiful county and our individual communities, and become a returning visitor,” Eickhoff said.
Other professional golf events are still taking place in this unusual year for sports. The U.S. Open concluded Sunday, while the Masters is scheduled for November.
But the Ryder Cup is a different animal. The event is known for its raucous fans from both Europe and the United States.
Golf officials decided to postpone the tournament when it became clear spectators couldn’t attend. Local businesses told the Sheboygan Press they prefer postponing to playing without fans.
Tickets for the event sold out instantly. Ticket holders who can’t attend in 2021 can request refunds, though tournament officials don’t expect many additional tickets to become available.
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