Hometown hero?

Tuesday September 25, 2012

MEDINAH, Ill. -- The Ryder Cup comes to Chicago for the first time, and it's only fitting that the Windy City can claim one of the players as its own.

Luke Donald spent four years at Northwestern, winning an NCAA title and graduating with a degree in art. He married a local girl and never found reason to settle anywhere else. He lives on the North Side and suffers annually with Cubs fans. After the Ryder Cup, he and his wife will pick apples in the country for her birthday.

There's only one catch -- Donald is English.

The only "hometown" player in this Ryder Cup will be playing for the visiting team.

"Unique, isn't it?" Donald said.

This is not the first time for a Ryder Cup held in the United States to include European players who make their primary home in America -- Graeme McDowell, Ian Poulter and Justin Rose (Orlando, Fla.), Paul Casey (Scottsdale, Ariz.) and Jesper Parnevik (Jupiter, Fla.) to name a few. But those are seen as golf communities. Chicago is among the world's great sports cities, and it's one of the best golf markets in America.

It is expected to be loud at Medinah when the matches begin Friday, and there is little doubt that will give the Americans a big edge in crowd support.

"The way I look at it is the home team has the biggest advantage," he said. "Just taking away 1 percent of the crowd support, that's a help to our team. And that's the way I'm looking at it. But, yeah, it's kind of odd. I don't play Medinah that much. I've played it twice in the last five weeks or something like that. I don't really go there that much. Staying in a hotel 20 miles away from where you live is kind of strange, but that's the way it goes."

Donald will have support from more than just a few friends and family members. Europeans are coming across for the Ryder Cup, too, and you'll be able to hear them singing around the first tee and belting out that "Ole, ole, ole ole" across the tree-lined course.

But it won't quite be the same as what Kenny Perry and J.B. Holmes heard at Valhalla in their native Kentucky, the reception Padraig Harrington and the Irish boys received at The K Club, Jose Maria Olazabal at Valderrama or Lee Westwood at The Belfry.

Donald is very much English. He just happens to love Chicago, which is why he never left.

He first saw the city during a brief recruiting trip in April. Donald got off the plane and saw snow covering the ground.

It was at Northwestern that he met his wife, Diane. They started getting serious right before he turned pro, while she was still a sophomore at Northwestern. That was enough reason to stay, though not the only reason. Donald remains with Pat Goss, his coach at Northwestern. His friends outside golf are in Chicago.

"I think you become familiar with a place," Donald said. "I had a lot of friends. My coach, Pat, was probably a big reason, too. I started dating Diane a couple months before I got my tour card, but we met when I was in college."


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