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Homecoming: Cardinal Newman’s Koepka honored for Ryder Cup heroics

The Ryder Cup Trophy is back in the United States after an eight-year absence, and it returned to PGA Headquarters in style Tuesday morning.

Jupiter Island resident Rickie Fowler and Cardinal Newman High School graduate Brooks Koepka, who played key roles for the U.S. team in its 17-11 Ryder Cup victory over Europe this month, walked with the trophy through a crowd of supporters, with Prince’s “Let’s Go Crazy” playing in the background.

Their appearance was part of an hourlong celebration that included the Cardinal Newman pep band, cheerleaders and boys golf team, PGA of America administrators, Koepka’s former high school geometry teacher and current Cardinal Newman principal Christine Higgins — and U.S. Ryder Cup captain Davis Love III via Skype.

Koepka’s junior golf coach and mentor, PGA Master Professional Warren Bottke, also sat in the audience during the presentation.

“It’s cool to come back,” said Koepka, who went 3-1 in his first Ryder Cup appearance. “It’s fun to be around everybody on the PGA and bring the trophy back. To have my high school here is pretty neat.”

There was plenty of Cardinal Newman blue and yellow in the standing-room-only crowd.

Koepka graduated from the school in 2008 and went on to play college golf at Florida State. Crusaders athletic director Jay Lower and Higgins presented him with a school T-shirt and student ID.

“This is an exciting time,” Lower said. “Brooks is like family. When you get that opportunity to see a family member succeed, we wanted to be a part of it. This is a big thing for us.”

Koepka and Fowler, who went 2-1 for the U.S. in his third Ryder Cup appearance, shared their Ryder Cup experiences Tuesday, and also commented on photos and videos that were shown during the event.

Fowler said the team bonded during their stay in Chaska, Minn. The 41st Ryder Cup was played at Hazeltine National Golf Club.

“It was special to be a part of this team with Brooks and the rest of the guys,” Fowler said. “We became a lot closer through the week. It was a special week.”

Koepka said the crowd was squarely in the U.S. team’s corner during the Ryder Cup, and it showed. For the first time since 1975 — when Arnold Palmer was U.S. captain — every U.S. player won at least one match. Palmer died a week before the Americans’ victory.

“I’ve never seen anything like it,” Koepka said. “The fans were unbelievable. I was nervous. I was probably the most nervous I’ve ever been. It was unbelievable the support they gave.”

Each U.S. Ryder Cup player and captain will have the opportunity to keep the trophy for a time as it tours the country. Eventually, it will return to its home at PGA Headquarters.

“It’s special to have it,” Koepka said.

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