Aussie Fanatics add fun at The Presidents CupOctober 05, 2013
Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM Chief of Correspondents
DUBLIN, Ohio -- You can't miss them.
They are wearing lederhosen made out of fake cowskins, for cryin' out loud. With gold and green argyle socks, no less.
For the Fanatics, though, Saturday's seismic clash of colors and patterns at Muirfield Village made perfect sense.
"It's mooooooooooo-ving day," they were quick to point out in unison as they huddled together by the 18th green.
Once you get past that rather twisted tribute to Octoberfest, America's heartland and golf, though, you'll meet 17 gregarious and genuinely funny Australians who have come to the United States this week to cheer on the International Team at The Presidents Cup.
Maybe cheer isn't quite the right word, though. Since "International" hardly lends itself to chanting like U-S-A does, the Fanatics have learned to be inventive.
Aussie Jason Day, for example, was greeted on the first tee Thursday by a chorus of "Oh, Happy Day." Branden Grace, the South African rookie, was serenaded with "Amazing Grace" as he arrived.
And let's not forget Adam Scott, a veteran of six International Teams. His song is cut in the "Ole, Ole, Ole" and "Aussie, Aussie, Aussie," mode.
"Adam Scott is hot, hot hot," the Fanatics sing -- and no doubt every woman in the crowd agreed.
A supremely relaxed former President George W. Bush could even be seen giving the Fanatics a thumbs-up or thumbs-down signal as he critiqued their song choices on Thursday during the opening Four-ball competition.
"That was pretty amazing to have a President interact with you," said Japhy Duldig, who works for Fox Sports in Australia. "That's good fun."
And good fun is what the Fanatics are all about. The group, which has morphed into a travel and tourism company with more than 50,000 members, was formed in 1997 to support Australian sporting endeavors at home and around the world.
"There's no us-versus-them," Duldig said. "It's just one big let's have fun, let's have a sing-a-long."
The Fanatics made their first appearance at a Davis Cup match. Now members of the group attend everything from soccer and rugby matches to horse racing and tennis -- even the running of the bulls in Pamplona and Octoberfest. OK. So the last one isn't a sport per se, but it was the genesis for the lederhosen.
"If it's out there playing internationally, we're there," said Christopher Black, who is the "unofficial, official spokesman" for the group.
And two years ago when The Presidents Cup was played at Royal Melbourne, a dozen of these same Fanatics were in attendance -- high-fiving International Team Captain Greg Norman every day and enticing the likes of Fred Couples and Tiger Woods to put on their trademark green Hogan caps.
It was so much fun -- there's that word again -- the Fanatics wanted to do it again at Muirfield Village. Norman was contacted, and he called his successor, Nick Price, and suggested the new captain bring them along. Price and the PGA TOUR helped the group with tickets and the rest, as they say, is history.
"Greg passed the baton to Nick and we were more than happy to oblige," Black said. "... The way the locals are lapping up the whole event and welcoming us is fantastic. There's been a lot of good friendly banter."
And the Fanatics usually end up winning those battles. Take the exchange with a middle-aged American after Jason Day and Graham DeLaet -- who has his own "Graham's Gangsters" in attendance -- polished off Steve Stricker and Jordan Spieth 2 and 1 in Saturday's Four-balls.
After several volleys back and forth across the gallery ropes, the best the man from the U.S. could offer was the tired "Watermelon, Watermelon, Watermelon rind, look on the scoreboard and see who's behind." The Fanatics were non-plussed.
"We've got the whole world ... on our team," they sang, taking a page from the American spiritual and drawing applause from the partisan American crowd.
When the Fanatics -- who got to Muirfield Village at 7:30 a.m. on Saturday and stayed until the bitter, rain-soaked end -- aren't singing or encouraging the International Team, they can often be found posing for pictures with people in the crowd. One particularly shy woman sneaked up when their backs were turned but one of the Fanatics, sensing "paparazzi" in the air, turned quickly, put his arm around her and smiled for the camera.
"I think the boys are going to get a little bit blind," Black said with a grin. "There have been that many flash photos."
And that many adult beverages consumed -- although no one would hazard a guess as to the count for the week to date.
"That's the second time we've been asked that question today," Black said, feigning surprise. "Let's put it this way. We've got some heavyweights, and they're working your concessions pretty hard."
"I don't think anybody's got enough fingers to count that high," Duldig added.
A local Lexus dealer nonetheless bravely opened his hospitality tent to the Fanatics, and "The Bogey," a Dublin pub, has become their second home for the week. "Everybody's been so much fun buying us drinks," Duldig noted.
"And we are staying at the beautiful Red Roof Inn," Black said. "We've got to give them a plug."
Maybe that's because "they are letting us sleep seven to a room" his compatriot added before clarifying, "That's a joke."
The only negative this week? Well, the Internationals are losing. But the Fanatics will be there Sunday -- and Monday, if necessary -- to cheer their favorites on regardless of what happpens.
Just look for the men in the yellow shirts and green and gold plaid pants.
"But we'll wash our socks out, hopefully," Duldig said.