Being a Ryder Cup captain has its perks and benefits, especially when Italy is the host nation of the biennial bash.
As the Americans and Europeans prepare to square off at Marco Simone Golf and Country Club, September 29 - October 1, 2023, U.S. captain Zach Johnson and European captain Luke Donald took part in the Ryder Cup Year to Go Celebrations that included a visit to the Colosseum, hitting shots at the Temple of Venus and Roma, a gala dinner at the exclusive Palazzo Colonna, and oh yeah, they met the pope.
"It was a very memorable experience and the honor wasn't lost on us," said Johnson. "Clearly today was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Pope Francis was beyond gracious, warm and welcoming. (Wife Kim) and I will never forget our Vatican morning."
Donald and Johnson held a private audience with Pope Francis at the Vatican and gifted him an inscribed replica Ryder Cup: "Presented to His Holiness The Pope By Ryder Cup Captains Luke Donald and Zach Johnson." Among countless world-famous paintings and sculptures, the captains' names will live on forever on the cup in the Vatican.
"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 (wife Diane) will always cherish," added Donald.
The U.S. currently holds the Ryder Cup after its dominant 19-9 win at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin in 2021. Italy will host for the first time next fall when the Americans will look to win for the first time on foreign soil since 1993 at The Belfry.
Story originally appeared on GolfWeek