Faldo aims high in Ryder Cup

Alan Booth reports from the Ryder Cup I AM loving every minute of it, said a beaming Nick Faldo as he looked forward to one of the greatest moments of his golfing life. The captaincy of the Ryder Cup is the fulfilment of a career which has established

Alan Booth reports from the Ryder Cup

"I AM loving every minute of it," said a beaming Nick Faldo as he looked forward to one of the greatest moments of his golfing life.

The captaincy of the Ryder Cup is the fulfilment of a career which has established him as Britain's finest golfer.

Besieged by the world's golf writers as he and his European team arrived at Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, Kentucky, on Monday for the biennial match, he was in confident mood, stressing that the team spirit was already very special.

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On the charter flight for the players, along with wives and girl friends, he had unpacked the Ryder Cup, and passed it round for everyone to hold and admire the glittering gold trophy donated by Samuel Ryder, the St Albans seedsman and three times captain of Verulam Golf Club.

They arrived after gales had disrupted internal flights and power failures had blacked out the city, with even minor damage to the course, but conditions had improved by Tuesday when Faldo had the team assembled on the first tee, a close-knit group as they shared thoughts and discussed tactics, before the players went off in threes to practise.

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As a record 11-time European Ryder Cup player Faldo was asked in press interview what did it take to be successful as captain, and he confidently replied "Big heart, strong in mind and strong in battle."

They sum up, in my view, the dedication he brought to his game from those early days at Welwyn Garden City Golf Club when he was coached by the late Ian Connelly.

For me personally, I have the privilege of being the first golf correspondent not only to watch him play, but write about his performance - and even pull his trolley. Then 17, he was competing in the Porters Park Junior Open in 1974. an event reduced to l8 holes due to heavy rain, and leader in the clubhouse with a 71 was Nicholas Faldo, hoping to celebrate his first win. Then in the last match he was pipped by Andrew Jackson (Burnham Beeches), who holed from 8ft. for 70.

As he had come second by a stroke three days earlier in the Moor Park Junior Open to David Hastings of Old Fold Manor, he said 'It's tough to be pipped every time'. That year he was selected for the England Boys team - along with Ken Brown and Sandy Lyle.

In 1975 his wait for success was over as he was the toast of the amateur scene with an amazing spell - started by winning the Herts Boys title and Herts Amateur Championship at Ashridge, then winning the English Amateur, the British Youths, South African Stroke Play, among others, as well as England and British international appearances.

He turned professional in 1976, and over the years I have seen him win his three Open Championships and two of his three US Masters titles - the one in 1996 over Greg Norman in my view the greatest at Augusta - as well as most of his Ryder Cup events, and now like him, count this Ryder Cup at Valhalla as a grand finale.

Tomorrow (Friday) as the 37th Ryder Cup matches begin, Faldo will again be bidding for a European win - this time from the sidelines rather than in action on the course. Maybe the souls of Vikings, feasting in Norse mythology at Valhalla, will be toasting his victory.

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