The Ryder Cup - Understanding Leadership & Loss

By: Nancy Berkley


The U.S. Ryder Cup players were not a team. In general, with few exceptions, our players looked and acted more like a committee led by CEO Davis Love. Whether a group calls itself a team or not, it's their behavior that defines them as such.

After the 2012 Ryder Cup was over, one of the Golf Channel commentators offered a very enlightened observation of the U.S. defeat. He referenced the last two U.S. Ryder Cup teams and said that, on paper, the American players were better than their European counterparts. Then he went on to say that when these very talented U.S. players lose two competitions in a row, you have to look beyond the players and look at leadership at the top.

I couldn't agree more. I wasn't in Chicago; I watched the matches on TV. I write mostly about women's golf and am just a good female bogey golfer. So you can take everything I'm about to say with a grain of salt.

But I do know a thing or two about leadership and what makes a successful team.

Here's my favorite definition of a team from the 1993 book, "The Wisdom of Teams," by Jon R. Katzenbach and Douglas K. Smith: "A team is a small number of people with complementary skills who are committed to a common purpose, performance goals, and approach for which they hold themselves mutually accountable."

It's those last two words "mutually accountable" that are the key. When I read the headline "Dreams of Deciding the Match but Not This Way" by Karen Crouse on page D7 on Monday's New York Times, I was saddened to see the photo of a dejected Jim Furyk missing his putt on the 17th hole.

But I was more saddened to read in Crouse's article the statement by Furyk before the competition began in which he said that every player dreams of being the one to decide the Ryder Cup.

"No," Mr. Furyk, it is not "one" player that should make the difference. You should dream instead of standing with your team when everyone has decided the outcome of the Ryder Cup; where every one of your teammates is mutually accountable for the team's success and failures.

In this Ryder Cup, every single American player was mutually accountable for failure. The loss this year isn't Furyk's fault; just keep just one-twelfth of it on your shoulders.

Something was amiss in the board room of the U.S. Ryder Cup players. Captain Love may call it a "team room" but, in my opinion, it must not have been.

In this Ryder Cup the Europeans understood what makes a team, as they've proven in winning 10 of the past 14 biennial competitions. And it may be because they had that 13th person on their team and were all mutually accountable to the legacy of the late Seve Ballesteros. And it may be that Europe's Jose Maria Olazabal just was the better team captain.

I hope that Meg Mallon, captain of the U.S. 2013 Solheim Cup team is listening. The 2013 Solheim Cup will be played August 13-18 at the Colorado Golf Club in Parker, Colo., just outside Denver. (For more details, visit http://www.lpga.com/golf/solheim-cup/2013-solheim-cup-team-usa.aspx.)

Maybe Mallon should forget all the analysis of playing orders and just concentrate on building a team. The U.S. Solheim Cup team has a legacy to play for also - the United States of America. Show us how teamwork works. Our country needs more of that.

Nancy Berkley, President of Berkley Golf Consulting, is an expert on women's golf and junior-girls golf. She is a frequent contributor to www.cybergolf.com/womensgolf. Her book, "Women Welcome Here! A Guide to Growing Women's Golf," published by the National Golf Foundation, is an industry reference on marketing golf to women and spotting trends within the industry. She offers information and advice about the golf industry on www.berkleygolfconsulting.com and is often quoted in national publications. She was a contributing editor of "Golf for Women" magazine and a founding advisor of "Golfer Girl Magazine." Her interviews with women in the golf industry now appear on www.golfergirlcareers.com. Nancy lives in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., and is a graduate of the University of Minnesota, Harvard University and Rutgers Law School. After a business and legal career, she decided to write about the game she learned and loved as a teenager. She describes herself as a good bogey golfer with permanent potential.


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