It all started with a post from our favorite blogger René on September 13th! I, like many of you, religiously read RenésPoints daily for tips pertaining to Delta and all things points and miles related. I’ve been in the game for about 7 years and there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t do something related to this hobby/obsession. Every time I think I know every conceivable way to use my points or miles, I find myself surprised as I learn something new, hence this guest post! For context, I’m a Platinum Medallion for the last couple of years based out of MSP (Minneapolis), but I will need a few mileage runs from MSP to retain it for 2017!
I’m a HUGE golf fan and the Ryder Cup is being played here right now in my home state of Minnesota. I’m in my early 40’s and I don’t believe this will happen again here in my lifetime, so this was very much on the so-called Bucket List. The ticket demand is so strong that they conduct a lottery. I entered for it last year, didn’t get my name chosen but when they did a second drawing my name was selected. I had the opportunity to buy tickets for any or all days…and I dropped the ball by waiting on a few friends to go in on tickets with me. I was really regretting this for the past 10 months or so but knew there would be tickets on the secondary market. Lo and behold, René posted about Skymiles Auctions on September 13th and that there were tickets available to bid on. I focused on the Wednesday practice round as that was the best day of the week for me to get out there. There were 4 packages for that day, and the minimum bid was 10,000 Skymiles. To some, this might seem exorbitant, but to a golf enthusiast, this was a great value, but YMMV? (I had to look that up a few years ago as I didn’t know the jargon and didn’t want to ask!). I decided I was willing to spend 15,001 miles for this opportunity. I was logged into my Skymiles account, and placed my Max Bid, and thus it started at the minimum of 10,000. Less than 36 hours later I was notified that I won with my minimum bid!
From the time that I got my email confirmation 9/14 that I won, I was sent UPS tracking on the package and the tickets were overnighted and I received them on 9/15. I was super pumped!
Rewind to this past Wednesday and the day came to go to the Ryder Cup Practice Round. Ok, I get it, we’re talking about practice…but if you can’t make the actual competition days, this is the next best thing! Plus, I figured being that it was “just” a practice round, the crowds wouldn’t be that bad. Boy was I wrong! Here’s a fact for you…Minnesotans play more rounds of golf per capita than any other state in the country. It might have something to do with our limited season! I asked a friend from college if he wanted to go and he enthusiastically said Yes! He just so happens to run a property management firm and they own a hotel in Chaska, where Hazeltine National Golf Club is located. Tuesday night was the last night he had any vacancies in advance of the tournament so he comp’d my room (good use of no points René, huh?) and we left for the shuttle at 7am. I live about 40 miles away from there and didn’t want to deal with rush hour and tournament traffic that morning. His porter took us over on their shuttle van to a Rapid Transit Station about 5 min away. For $5 you got a round trip coach bus ride and we were dropped off right up front to go thru the first security screening. There was free parking about a 1/2 hour away from the course, but the nightly news lead the night before with a story about wait times of up to 2 hours to get in due to sheer demand. No thanks!
We went thru your typical metal detector and had to empty our pockets and put everything in a tray for them to view. I did not see a Pre-check or Clear Lane unfortunately. From there we were on our way and my inner-tourist came out and I started taking pictures. I took way more than I ever would, but I had this idea of potentially sharing this experience with you fellow readers and I reached out to René about a guest post and here we are!
This was where a lot of the selfies were being taken but fortunately my buddy took some of me.
We made our way into the Merchandise Tent and I should have bought my souvenirs then, as the lines at the end of the day were crazy…I was just too excited to get to the Delta Skybox for a Bailey’s & Coffee!
My pictures of this tent do not do it justice…it was literally the size of an indoor football practice facility!
They had the pairings up on one of the Video Boards so we figured head over to #16, have some breakfast and warm up a bit, and then watch the groups hit onto #12 Green. 5 out of the 6 groups teed off from #10 that morning and basically were all in a row.
We get to #16, and the Delta Airlines Sky Box was in the Payne Stewart “Village” of about 6 Corporate Tents. We go through 2 rounds of security checking our credentials before we can get to the tent.
We enter, and I’m greeted by two Flight Attendants in Red, and they ask for my name and check me in. BTW, I glanced down on their iPad and saw Richard Anderson’s name on the list…but did not see him. Folks around these parts don’t love him for how things ended at NWA, but I digress. They give us a quick tour and then she hits us with it…the bar isn’t open until 11:30…it’s 8:30! (#KeepDescending) Since I can’t have the aforementioned Bailey’s & Coffee, I have a Pepsi…in the Delta Skybox. Oh the irony of sponsorship contracts! To add a little insult, the FA tells me they opened the bar the day before at 7:30 but DL Marketing had other ideas for our day. Gotta love those Enhancements! The breakfast spread was a glorified continental breakfast. The only “Hot” food was the Bagels you toast. They had Muffins, Scones, some Fresh Fruit, Yogurt, Cold Cereal, and Juices. It was apparently a “special” toaster, as you had to push down on it twice to get it to click twice to toast. That’s 10 minutes of my life I can’t get back. The catering manager had to come in and show everyone, as I and the flight attendants, and the catering staff, were dumbfounded as to why this wasn’t working. The catering manager spoke matter of factly to me about how you have to push down twice and click it twice. She said we were fortunate, as we were the only tent with a toaster. I guess I look at things differently. Oh, the coffee was cold too according to my buddy…but at least they had nice signage for it!
From there, we headed out to #12 Green. We waited for about 30 min and then the groups started coming through. I turned around as I was up against the rope line and it was 5-6 people deep behind me all surrounding the green. I just couldn’t believe how many people were here for practice! It’s so much more laid back, plus the players are trying all sorts of shots and putts based on where they feel the pin placements will be in the coming days. You were allowed to take pictures during the Practice Round, so I took some the best I could with my iPhone.
After that, we headed back to the Sky Box for some libations and to warm up. It was only about 60 degrees that day and a bit windy, cold for this time of year in Minnesota actually. It was a little after 11 and they were kind enough to open the bar a little early. No Woodford…but I don’t really have the palate for it anyways.
Lunch was served after 11:30 but I didn’t take any pictures. It was much better, with 3 different hot options, (Pasta, Pulled Pork Sandwiches, Roasted Turkey Breast with Stuffing) plus an excellent Caprese Salad and some great cookies that I might have had 2 of… On a side note, I work for a food manufacturer selling in the Foodservice industry and have done so for the past 19 years or so…I didn’t understand the menu at all! It felt like, “Hey, what do we have left over that we can throw out there?”
We watched the groups play #16, my buddy networked, I drank, and we repeated the cycle until the 5th of 6 groups came through. If you watched on Friday afternoon, #16 was where the first day ended when Rory McIlroy made an Eagle Putt.
We finished our day by going back thru the Merchandise Tent where me and 3-4,000 of my closest friends all decided it was a good time to over-pay for some golf gear. They had 60 registers so the lines actually moved quick…and my wallet was lighter but it was well worth it. As we headed out, I saw the lines for the folks that parked for free. The best $5 I spent that day as we walked right on to the first shuttle and were off. They had those lines split so this time it did feel like we had Pre-Check!
I’ve never done this sort of thing before, so forgive me if this is a tad wordy. If I had to do it all over again, I would in a second. The memories I now have and the time spent with a good friend sharing stories and laughs, and maybe heckling the European Team a bit (sorry René), were so worth it. Thanks for letting me share my experience and for all you do on the blog for us! So did you make it out to the Ryder Cup this year? – Daniel
[Thank you Daniel for sharing this post with me and readers. Nothing brings me more joy than someone getting real value out of their points be it from earning say on a Mileage Run or burning on a trip or something like this at a sweet price and value] – René