Follow the green shirts and you’ll find Ryan Helminen.
“They asked me where I was from on the third or fourth hole and it was nice,” the PGA Club Pro from Menasha said Thursday.
Even Helminen’s playing partners – Rory Sabbatini and Chesson Handle – were shocked by his large entourage that joined him throughout his early morning opening round at the PGA Championship.
He was certainly a hometown favorite.
“He had about 30 followers last year and now we’ve probably doubled that,” Ryan’s sister Andrea said while sporting the green attire. “So it’s just great to be here with our friends and family, people we haven’t seen in years coming out and supporting.”
Arnold Palmer had the faithful and numerous ‘Arnie’s Army’, while Helminen had his own ‘Team Ryan Helminen.’
“I feel pride to be a part of Wisconsin,” he said after his 76 at Whistling Straits. Helminen was four-over par through the first three holes after an uncharacteristic double bogey but battled through self-doubt and an inconsistent driver to stay even the rest of the way in.
“Everyone has been great. I just want to represent Wisconsin well and everyone has been very supportive and it was really easy to get down on me early but they’re still rooting me on,” he continued.
At last year’s PGA Championship at Valhalla one of his biggest supporters – his father – didn’t want to make Ryan nervous so he watched from the clubhouse. This time Ryan’s father couldn’t miss the opportunity to see him live and he fit right in amongst the following.
“I didn’t see him at all actually. I was kind of, I saw a lot of supporters out there,” Helminen said. “I didn’t pick out individual people but I know that everyone was rooting me on.”
Helminen may actually get a good nights rest as he has the fortune of sleeping in his own bed during this tournament. He’ll have some ground to make up to sneak in under the cut line, but it’s still possible.
He’s certainly not alone in his pursuit.
“When Ryan got off to his shaky start he had to step away for a while but he’s here,” Andrea said. “He’s around here somewhere and of course he’s not going to miss his son playing. He’s very proud. Our mom is very proud. Everyone is proud of him.”