Brooklawn Country Club takes swing at landing golf’s Solheim Cup

By Kevin Zimmerman

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It’s been quite a while since Fairfield’s Brooklawn Country Club has hosted a major golf event. But if Rick Ryan, first vice president of its board of governors, has his way, that will all change with the prestigious Solheim Cup, widely viewed as the biggest event in women’s professional golf.

Founded in 1895 and one of the first clubs to be recognized by the foundling United States Golf Association (USGA), Brooklawn has hosted four USGA championships, including the 1979 U.S. Women’s Open and the 1987 U.S. Senior Open.

Rick Ryan. Rick Ryan.

That last major event hosted by Brooklawn “was a long time ago,” Ryan said. “For me personally and for the club I love, the Solheim Cup is a perfect event — for us, the city, the county and the tristate area. The time is right.”

The time isn’t quite here yet, however: Brooklawn’s bid is for the 2021 edition of the biennial women’s event. Like the men’s Ryder Cup, the Solheim pits a U.S. team against a European team and switches off between the states and Europe. The long lead time is due to the 2017 edition being scheduled for the Des Moines Golf and Country Club and the 2019 competition taking place at the Gleneagles Hotel in Perthshire, Scotland.

Ryan, who in August became director of corporate relations at Quinnipiac University, said the Solheim Cup would bring an economic impact of around $50 million to the area, with at least 150,000 spectators expected. If awarded to Brooklawn — which made its presentation to the Solheim committee in July — it would be the first time the Cup has been held in the Northeast.

Brooklawn is also the only Northeastern facility to bid on the Cup. Other contenders are Inverness Country Club in Toledo, Ohio; Lancaster Country Club in Lancaster, P.A.; Scioto Country Club in Upper Arlington, Ohio; Oak Tree National in Edmund, Okla.; and TPC San Antonio in San Antonio, Texas.

“The last presentation was made last Wednesday (Sept. 21),” Ryan said. “We’re up against clubs with substantial resources. Now it’s up to us to keep the momentum going.”

As part of that effort, the club has reached out to and secured sponsoring interest from MasterCard, XL Catlin, PepsiCo, Google and Bank of America and has received letters of intent from 30 companies supporting its bid. The club has also packaged corporate hospitality villages named after seven past Solheim Cup captains, all of whom played in the ’79 U.S. Women’s Open, including Nancy Lopez, Kathy Whitworth, Judy Rankin and Pat Bradley.

Lining up corporate support “is the single hardest thing” in the bidding process, Ryan declared. “It’s as important as the club’s ability to pull off the event.”

Still, he said, “We have more Fortune 500 companies than anywhere else on Earth, when you consider the tristate area and Massachusetts. (The other contenders) don’t have that unlimited supply of potential corporate sponsors. For us, the target list never dries up.”

Brooklawn Country Club. Brooklawn Country Club.

Brooklawn is further touting its proximity to international airports, commuter rail service to and from New York City, Amtrak rail service between Washington, New York and Boston, water ferry services, and the club’s location between I-95 and the Merritt Parkway as uniquely accommodating to out-of-state and foreign visitors.

In addition, Ryan noted that Brooklawn has completed more than $12 million in capital improvements over the last 10 years, with major projects, including a new irrigation system and the restoration of all bunkers as well as the addition of new ones. The club’s pool building and bag room and men’s and women’s locker rooms in its 57,667-square-foot clubhouse, which celebrates its 100th birthday this year, have also been renovated and upgraded, he said.

In 1930, the club’s course was completely redesigned by the noted golf course architect A.W. Tillinghast; architect Ron Forse now oversees ongoing improvements.

“We’re very fiscally healthy,” Ryan said. “We have no debt and significant cash reserves. Our membership is very excited about the Solheim Cup and I’m convinced that getting it would be great for the entire region. Let’s face it: We could use some very good news.”

Ryan said the Cup Committee’s decision is expected as early as mid-October or as late as mid-December.

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