Captains Luke Donald and Zach Johnson rounded off the Ryder Cup Year To Go celebrations in Rome by meeting the Pope.
The two Captains had a private audience with Pope Francis at the Vatican, bringing the curtain down on three days of events in the Eternal City to mark 12 months until Italy hosts its first Ryder Cup at Marco Simone Golf & Country Club from September 26 – October 1, 2023.
European Captain Donald and United States Captain Johnson gifted the Pontiff a commemorative Ryder Cup with the inscription: “Presented to His Holiness The Pope By Ryder Cup Captains Luke Donald and Zach Johnson”.
The Captains were accompanied by their respective wives Diane and Kim and officials from Ryder Cup Europe, the PGA of America and Federazione Italiana Golf for the unique experience.
Luke Donald said: “As Ryder Cup Captain I am fortunate to be able to do many special things, but having a private audience with Pope Francis was certainly a memory that myself and Diane will always cherish.”
Zach Johnson said: “It was a very memorable experience and the honour wasn’t lost on us. Clearly today was a once in a lifetime opportunity. Pope Francis was beyond gracious, warm and welcoming. Kim and I will never forget our Vatican morning.”
The Captains’ visit to Vatican City on Wednesday followed a busy schedule of activities to celebrate the Year To Go this week.
On Tuesday, Donald and Johnson took the Ryder Cup to one of Rome’s most iconic landmarks, the Colosseum, chipping shots from a specifically built platform to a Ryder Cup green located in Tempio di Venere e Roma (Temple of Venus and Roma). The pair also hosted their first joint press conference on Tuesday afternoon and spent time with the Italian and international media as excitement grows ahead of Italy becoming only the third country in continental Europe to host a Ryder Cup.
The Year To Go Celebrations began on Monday when Donald and Johnson were joined by 12 members of the Federazione Italiana Golf’s (FIG) Elite National Under 18 team – six boys and six girls aged 15-18 – and four members of the Elite Disabled team for the four-hole Captains’ Challenge match over the first, 16th, 17th and 18th holes at Marco Simone.
Approximately 300 local school children watched the event, which fittingly ended in a tie, with the two teams sharing the trophy.
Then on Monday evening, the two Captains joined 200 guests at the Official Gala Dinner which took place at the spectacular Palazzo Colonna.
Marco Simone will host the 2023 Ryder Cup from September 26 to October 1, 2023, when Europe will try to regain the Ryder Cup following defeat at Whistling Straits last year.