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Last Updated: Tuesday, 14 September, 2004, 18:40 GMT 19:40 UK
Golf's sale of the century
By John Mathews
BBC Sport at Oakland Hills

A quintessential part of a visit to any major sports event involves the purchase of some form of official merchandise - just to say you have been there.

Ryder Cup Christmas tree baubles cost 22 each
"Wimbledon? Oh yeah... went last summer. Here's the towel to prove it."

The Ryder Cup is of course no exception, though there is something quite exceptional about the tent put up to ensnare eager shoppers visiting the Oakland Hills Country Club this week.

To call it a "tent" does it no justice whatsoever.

Measuring more than the size of a football pitch, it could well be the largest merchandising outlet ever constructed at a sports venue and it took a month to complete.

People are falling over each other to throw fistfuls of dollars at the 600 staff employed to sell more than 50,000 different items which will surely cater for the needs of even the most ardent golf lover.

Why look - there's a selection of Ryder Cup Christmas tree baubles, priced at $40 (22) each.

And with temperatures soaring to over 27C (80F) in the Michigan sunshine outside, this is the perfect opportunity to get your Christmas shopping in early doors.

Detroit local Thomas Satawa certainly thinks so as he picks up one of the baubles, checks the price and nods that yes, this is "kinda cool".

He said: "Well, I've got all the golf shirts I need. These Christmas tree decorations are something I'll remember 20 years from now."

Mmm. Maybe, but there's no arguing with Thomas when he suggests the merchandising arena is "its own city" within the golf course.

Ryder Cup teddy bears sport their team's colours
The shop floor measures 33,500 square feet - the storerooms out the back take it to more than 44,000 - and souvenir hunters can choose to spend upwards from $3 on a ball to $75,000 on an original Oakland Hills oil painting by renowned golf artist Richard Chorley.

Most seem to be heading somewhere in between.

A simple polo shirt embossed with the Ryder Cup logo would set you back $50 (28), but director of merchandising Susan Hickman insists their pricing structure is in line with the local market.

Susan doesn't like to talk about specific amounts, but she reveals that the PGA of America expects to make "millions, not thousands" from the sale of official products this week.

And with around 35,000 spectators here each day, it is easy to see why.

"This shopping venue is its own destination at the Ryder Cup - people just have to come and look at it," she said.

She is absolutely right.

Whether or not they then need to dig deep in their pockets to buy a Ryder Cup teddy bear, well that's a different story.

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