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Welcome to Louisville - KFC and bourbon

Alex Trickett | 14:37 UK time, Wednesday, 17 September 2008

"Why can't they all get to know each other? I will give £5 to each of the winning players, and give a party afterwards, with champagne and chicken sandwiches."

Thus spoke Samuel Ryder whilst watching an unofficial international match between the Americans and British at Wentworth in 1926. And a year later, the first official Ryder Cup match-up took place.

With words like those, it was pretty much destiny that the Ryder Cup would one day find its way to Louisville, Kentucky.

A Ryder Cup sign with team captains Paul Azinger and Nick Faldo hangs on the side of the Kaden Building in Louisville
After all, the "bluegrass state" is famously known as the birthplace of Kentucky Fried Chicken (perhaps not quite what Ryder had in mind for his chicken sandwiches but close enough).

Good old Colonel Sanders opened his first restaurant in the small front room of a gas station in Corbin, Kentucky in 1930, acting as station operator, cook and cashier all at the same time.

By 2006, more than a billion of his "finger lickin' good" chicken dinners were served annually around the world, including not an inconsiderable number at Louisville airport - yep, you guessed it KFC was one of the first things I saw on arrival.

But what else is Kentucky known for?

Quick investigation reveals that this gastronomic hub is also home to the cheeseburger and to bourbon whiskey, the latter a particularly exciting discovery since the 37th Ryder Cup coincides with the 17th annual Kentucky Bourbon Festival.

Whiskey (spelt with an e in these parts) is a serious business here.

Maker's Mark, Jim Beam, Wild Turkey, Knob Creek, Old Ezra Rare Old Sippin' Whiskey (it's even got its own widget!) and pretty much any other bourbon you care to mention that's not Jack Daniels (Tennessee) come from Kentucky.

They even had a "Ryder Cup of whiskey" debate at a local restaurant last week with a specially imported Scotsman singing the praise for Scotch and an American cheerleading for bourbon.

Sadly, I wasn't here for that, but a restaurant insider tells me bourbon won a home decision. Beware the omens Nick Faldo.

Louisville pre-dates its whiskey, however.


The city - currently the 29th largest in the States with a population of 558,000 - was named for King Louis XVI.

Acting - it must be said - against the spirit of the European golf pact that was to follow 201 years later, the French king sent supplies and soldiers to the fledgling United States in 1778, helping to secure their independence from Great Britain.

Louis' "ville" (town) has been home to all sorts since then.

From Thomas Edison (inventor) to Tom Cruise (actor) via Zachary Taylor (president) and Hunter S Thompson (author), all have savoured the streets of the USA's official most livable city.


And then, of course, there is Muhammad Ali.

Tomorrow, I'll take a closer look at Louisville sport and in particular at Ali and another famous city slugger, but in the meantime, do share any Kentucky facts or anecdotes that spring to mind.

I'll leave you with this nugget - apparently in Kentucky anyone who has been drinking is "sober" until he/she "cannot hold onto the ground". I'm just off to the bourbon festival then...


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