European Ryder Cup captain Luke Donald speaks poignantly about his late parents
"Yeah, they would be very proud of me."
At Christmas, back in 2002, Luke Donald could not wait to see how his mother, Ann reacted to the present he got her. Aged 25 and having won his first ever PGA Tour event, a month earlier, he had some money to spend.
Donald got his mum a new Mercedes SLK as a tangible token of his gratitude. It was his way of giving something back to the woman that had sacrificed so much to help him achieve his golf dreams.
Back then, Donald was a young golfer on a rapid rise. Tipped by former Walker Cup teammates, and many others, as a live majors prospect, he would go on to win 17 professional events and climb to World No.1 for a long stretch [40 weeks] in 2011. There would be no majors, unfortunately, but Donald was part of four winning Ryder Cup teams [with a 70% match-winning record].
At Marco Simone Golf Course, at the weekend, Donald cemented his legacy in the competition as he led Europe to Ryder Cup glory against a star-studded USA side. Sadly for Donald, his parents are both deceased so neither were with their son at his finest sporting moment. That, in part, explains why he was so emotional after Europe tied up what would be a five-point win:
"It's been an amazing journey. I can't even speak."
Luke Donald reacts to Europe winning the Ryder Cup 🏆🇪🇺 pic.twitter.com/W7R7eIUqkJ
— Sky Sports Golf (@SkySportsGolf) October 1, 2023
Shane Lowry comforts Luke Donald
In 2011, Luke Donald was in Chicago with his family, ahead of the birth of his daughter, Sophia, when he learned that his father, Colin had died.
While that was big news at the time - Donald was World No.1 - not as many people were aware that his mother, Ann had also passed away. In the victorious Team Europe press conference, on Sunday, a reporter referenced Donald mentioning, ahead of the Ryder Cup, that his parents would be watching over him.
The European captain was asked if his parents were at the forefront of his mind after his team claimed victory. "Yeah," Donald replied, "I had great parents.
"They were super supportive, but golf wasn't everything to them. They always really believed in me that - to have a balanced life, enjoy golf but enjoy other things in life as well.
"Yeah, they would be very proud of me. More for the fact, not that we won; more for the fact that... just the way I kind of went about the captaincy, I suppose.
"But yeah, that's a strange question. I've never had that one before. I've never thought about the answer. Yeah, I miss them... "
As Donald paused his answer, for a beat, Shane Lowry reached over and put a big, comforting Offaly paw on the shoulder of his captain. It was a touching, sobering moment amid the celebratory tone of the press briefing.
"I miss them, of course," Donald continued. "I would have loved to share this moment with them.
"I think some of the things that we talked as a group was it's really, really important to not just play for each other but play for those that mean the most to you. I think that's super powerful. You know, I gave the guys some videos on Monday. Just some people that mean a lot to them, two-minute videos, really giving them encouragement.
"I think that's why we always play this game. It's not just for ourselves. That's what makes the Ryder Cup so special is we play it for the people that mean so much to us. Certainly my parents meant a lot to me. Yeah, they would be very proud."
The Englishman, later, tried to focus on the immediacy of victory rather than looking ahead to the next Ryder Cup.
It is usually the case that captains, in the modern era, get the gig as a way of acknowledging the career they have had, on either the PGA or European [DP World] tours. The European players chanted 'Two more years!' at the trophy presentation ceremony.
"I want to enjoy this moment right now with these guys," Donald insisted.
"I think everyone sitting here would be very happy to have him again," declared Rory McIlroy. Time will tell but, for now, celebrations come first.
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