The European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn is an individual that’s not very easy to read and can often come across as being quite serious. Bjorn wears a permanently stern face and he looks the type of golfer that wouldn’t hand out too many gimmes if you were to play a friendly round with him on a Sunday afternoon. Looks can always be quite deceiving and history is full of lessons about the perils of judging a book by its cover.
In truth, the Great Dane is a warm individual that is highly regarded and respected not only in European golf circles but also international golf. His selection as captain of the European Ryder Cup team illustrates just what an illustrious career he has had and earned him the honour very few will ever be bestowed with.
As the Ryder Cup captain Bjorn is tasked with many tough decisions ahead with a host of players vying for a limited number of spaces on his team. Bjorn’s selection headache was eased a bit last week as world number 52,187 Stephen Atkinson selflessly made himself unavailable for the upcoming duel at Le Golf National in Paris.
Atkinson penned a hilarious letter to Thomas Bjorn on April 16 stating that even though he had won the West Hill monthly medal, he wouldn’t be available to play in the Ryder Cup. Despite being cut to a six handicap, Atkinson felt his world ranking of 52,187 ‘still leaves a little room for improvement’.
Thomas Bjorn was so taken by this that he shared the letter on twitter asking Atkinson to reconsider. The letter went viral, which prompted the big Dane to make the trip to Berkshire to pay Atkinson a surprise visit with the European Tour cameras in tow.
A flabbergasted Atkinson opened the door to see Thomas Bjorn standing with the authentic Ryder Cup trophy in hand. Between gasps of air and through the widest grin in the south-east of England, Atkinson managed to say, ‘This has got way out of hand”. Ever the gentleman and classy individual that Bjorn is, he thanked Atkinson for the letter as they shook hands and went to hit a few golf balls in the backyard of the Berkshire residents home.
The Ryder Cup captain was wary though that Atkinson may shank his ball into the trophy so as a precautionary measure moved it a bit further back from where the action was taking places. It was a special moment that once again showed what a good sport Thomas Bjorn is.
Niceties and moving gestures will be in short supply when Europe get their campaign underway against the Americans in October. Bjorn will know what a tough task lies in wait in a contest where they are not the favourites in the latest golf odds at 11/10. One thing that the Europeans will have is a partisan support and maybe even a few new fans after what their captain did.
It doesn’t take a lot to do what Bjorn did but it does make a huge impression on all those involved. Not only will Stephen Atkinson never forget this experience but all those connected to golf will remember this classy act of kindness from the Dane. Europe couldn’t have asked for a more committed captain in Bjorn as he has already begun winning the hearts and minds of the neutrals.