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The Ryder Cup-early days

How it all began and more. Art, photography, and film combine in a set of articles about the Ryder Cup. Here is the first. The formation years

The Ryder Cup is, and has been, probably the most exciting and emotionally charged event in the history of the game of golf.

Man-against-man, and teams-against-teams. National pride bursting at the seams.

"There is nothing like winning The Ryder Cup because you are playing for something besides yourself." - Tom Watson "It`s like playing for your life"- Nick Faldo(most successful European player).

"It created an event that grew tremendously and I am proud to be a part of that."- Jack Nicklaus on helping to add the rest of Europe to the event.

The formation years 1920-1927:

Nobody is sure where or who started the ball rolling for this wonderful biennial event. It was already a common thing for small fourball match challenges to be played while the Americans were over for the British Open. It was also known that businessman Sylvanus P Jermaine was passionate about creating such a match.

The idea of a challenge involving teams from both sides of the Atlantic grew from conversations Jermaine had with George Sargent( former USPGA president), following the 1920 U.S. Open, at Inverness. Jermain had invited Vardon and Ray to compete in the championship that year. While over many a match was played with local American professionals trying their luck against the

dynamic-duo. As a result, Germaine was now keen to create an international match between the two nations.

Following the discussions, a decision was made to play at the recently opened Gleneagles Golf Club in Scotland. With the new Kings course now open, and the traveledhotel nearly ready, it seemed the perfect chance. With each American player offered $1000 to cover expenses the match was given the green light.

The match was scheduled to be played on the 6th of June. The Americans arrived in Southampton the week before and travelled to Glasgow on a sleeper train. Sadly, with the hotel still under construction, the players had to use the carriages of the train as accommodation.

In addition to the hotel being unfinished, the course was also not ready for such a match. Untidy and ragged fairways was a general opinion, plus some rather harsh words about the state of the bunkers coming from the great Bernard Darwin.

When the tournament finally got underway the Americans were trounced by 9 points to three, with three matches halved. It was all predictable considering the poor conditions the Americans had suffered and the lesser quality of their team players. Only Walter Hagen and Jock Hutchinson were seen as serious opponents.

Although deemed as a failure the idea had caught the imagination of Walter Hagen, who would be a passionate supporter of the match until the first official game was played six years later.

It would also be nearly 100 years before the Cup would be officially held at the Gleneagles venue.

Enter an English entrepreneur, who sponsored the first match and donated the trophy to become the namesake of the Cup, Samuel Ryder.

Samuel Ryder

(24 March 1858 – 2 January 1936) was an English businessman and later golf enthusiast. He joined his father`s Manchester-based company as a seed merchant, which he left to start up his enterprise in Southern England.

Ryder originated the idea of selling garden seeds in "penny packets" and built a very successful business on the concept.

At the age of 50, he became an enthusiastic golfer and then from 1923 to 1925 he, together with his brother James, started sponsoring several golf tournaments and matches mostly at his home club of Verulam near St Albans.

From late 1925 Ryder started his association with playing professional Abe Mitchell. He employed Mitchell as his private coach at a fee of 1000 pounds per annum( a fortune at the time) and began a long-lasting mutual friendship.

The short film portrays the man and his golf swingHe had intended. For much more click link

In early 1926 a new attempt to play a match involving British and American professional golfers was proposed. Sam Ryder would sponsor the event.

Abe Mitchell tees off the first. The British thrashed the American team with Walter Hagen suffering a 6 and 5 defeat at the hands of George Duncan.

It had been his intention that the match would be the first Ryder Cup, but it was later decided that the match would not be an official contest ( due again to the weakness of the American team).

The match had been played on the tree-lined fairways of Wentworth G.C. in Surrey near London.

(The photograph shows the replica trophy presented to Peter Oosterhuis in one of his three appearances). More on Oosterhuis-

The first official event, for which Ryder donated a gold trophy, did not take place until 1927. The venue was the Worcester Country Club Massachussetts.

Although Sam Ryder had been generous enough to provide the famous trophy there were still a number of problems to overcome. One of the biggest was who would pay the travel costs of the nine-manboat trip British team.

Picture-The 6 day boat-trip starting on May 6 1927 from Southampton to New York was struck several times by high seas, and the team member passengers arrived in a poor state.

The weekly magazine Golf Illustrated asked directly for donations from every club in Britain, calculating that 3000 pounds were needed (about 180,000 in today's money). Unfortunately, generosity towards the Professionals (who most clubs thought should stay at home and serve their members) was not forthcoming, and in the end, the sum was met by a combination of donations, with the most generous being Samuel Ryder, and the Golf illustrated editor George Philpot.

Finally, after all the financial problems were managed, and the team was about to set sail, bad luck hit with team captain and prominent player Abe Mitchell being struck down with appendicites.

After a short meeting, the team decided it would now be led by the great veteran Ted Ray- who already had much experience playing in the United States(Photo shows Ray on the left with friend and long-time adversary Harry Vardon, posing before a match in the States). Game Ever PlayedRay is best known for being in a playoff for the U.S. Open in 1913, with Harry Vardon and Francis Ouimet (the winner). The story was the subject of a 2005 Disney movie entitled, "The Greatest game ever played."

One of the longest hitters of his day, Ted Ray was unfortunate to have to compete with the group known as the Great Triumvirate throughout his career. Harry Vardon, James Braid, and J.H.Taylor took nearly all major honours at the turn of the century. More on Ted Ray-


Nevertheless Ray managed to win 46 times including two majors, both the U.S. and British Open. Only his nemesis Harry Vardon and, over forty years later Tony Jacklin, have achieved this.

The team departed from Southampton docks in May 1927. Upon their arrival in New York six days later the team players were shocked to find how their status had been raised from the local club Pro to respected celebrities and athletes. As the gangplank was lowered and rested on American concrete the bands began to blast and the people began to cheer.

"There was a fleet of limousines waiting for us at the dockside, and, with police outriders flanking us with their sirens at full blast, we sped through New York."

Ted Ray.

The players were entertained from start to finish. They enjoyed top hotel accomodation accommodationswith luxuries they had never before experienced. Hagen was laying it on thick and made sure the team received the best of everything.

Party events followed by the best seats at the big baseball game to watch the world-famous Babe Ruth; and that was just the first day as Hagen offered to repeat the entertainment again!

The party atmosphere did not suit all the British team though, with some just happy to retire into the peace of their bed.

George Gadd struggled the most fromin the aftermath of the journey. He also toiled with the huge press presence and continuous party atmosphere.

As good a player as he was he never played a match. By his recommendation, he was omitted from the playing arena. It would be his only cup appearance as he never made the team again. A kindly and good-natured man, Gadd was particularly famous for his unorthodox putting style.

Once the party was over and the matches began it became quickly obvious this was not going to follow the same pattern as the unofficial match at Wentworth. The Americans were up for it and were focused on putting the Brits in their place. As Gene Sarazen said, "We wanted to beat the British in the worst way. They looked upon us as no more than a bunch of caddies." After the first day only the pairing of Aubrey Boomer and Charles Whitcombe offered the British team any hope, and it was now evident that as a team they were thoroughly outclassed. The second day was more of the same, with only a single point won by the experienced Duncan after a tough battle with an inexperienced Joe Turnesa.

The results

"Our opponents beat us fairly and squarely and almost entirely through their astonishing work on the putting greens, up to which point the British players were equally good. We were very poor by comparison, although quite equal to the recognized two putts per green standard. I consider we can never hope to beat the Americans unless we learn to putt. This lesson should be taken to heart by British golfers."

A final postscript of the game came from George Philpot, the Ryder Cup manager and golf illustrated editor : "If our young players profit from their experience, we can reasonably hope for a better fate in the next Ryder Cup. It is a soundly established truism that experience is a good teacher and the British Professionals have every incentive to make the most of it."

For more early Ryder Cup stories click the link:

For an unusual and strictly limited Ted Ray etching edition please click the link-


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