Ryder Cup History
English seed merchant Samuel Ryder established The Ryder Cup contest between The United States and Great Britain. The wealthy seed merchant was its inspiration and its benefactor, but the idea of a competition between these two golfing nations was not his alone. There are many contradictory stories about who first voiced the idea. One is that a circulation manager at magazine Golf Illustrated called James Harnett came up with a novel way of raising the profile of his title. Another states that Harnetts cause was taken up by SP Jermain, president of The Inverness Club.
Two Ryder Cup-style contests took place prior to the first official match in 1927. A US side lost 9-3 to a British team in 1921 at Gleneagles, while Samuel Ryder attended the 1926 match, held at Wentworth Club in Surrey, primarily to support his good friend and golf coach Abe Mitchell, who represented Britain. After the match Mitchell declared he would support a regular competition and commissioned Mappin & Webb to create a solid gold trophy for £250.
Few people who took up golf after their 50th birthday have left as many positive impressions on the game during the history of golf. To get started Ryder recruited the services of a golf professional called Hill from a local golf course to introduce him to the fundamentals of golf. Afterwards Ryder hired Abe Mitchell as his private tutor for a fee of £1,000 per year. Ryder received most of his lessons at his home, Marlborough House, and he was relentless. He practiced his driving, pitching and putting six days each week.
At the age of 51 he had achieved a handicap of six and was accepted as a member of the Verulam Golf Club in St Albans in 1910. A year later he became captain of the golf club. He was also club captain in 1926 and 1927. In 1923 he sponsored the Heath and Heather Tournament which was only open to professionals. One of the golf professionals that took part was ex-gardener Abe Mitchell, considered one of best British golfers of his era.
Among the British, at the 1926 landmark match, were golfing giants Abe Mitchell, George Duncan, Archie Compston, Ted Ray (portrayed by Stephen Marcus in the 2005 film The Greatest Game Ever Played), and Arthur Havers. From America came Walter Hagen, Tommy Armour, Jim Barnes and Al Watrous.
This first official match was held in Worcester, Massachusetts, at the Worcester Country Club, in 1927. Ryder, who donated a gold cup and had agreed to pay £5 to each member of the winning team, attached his name to the new competition. It has been held on a two year cycle since, apart from 1939 to 1945 when it was cancelled due to World War II.
The 2001 match was delayed for a year, as it was due to take place very shortly after the September 11 terrorist attacks. It was subsequently decided to hold the Ryder Cup in even-numbered years instead of odd-numbered years. The boards at The Brabazon Course at The Belfry, which hosted the 2002 Ryder Cup (which should have been hosted in 2001) still read The 2001 Ryder Cup and USA captain Curtis Strange deliberately referred to the US team as "The 2001 Ryder Cup Team" in his speech at the closing ceremony. Europe claimed their first hat-trick of victories in 2002, 2004 and 2006: this was particularly surprising as no European player had won a single Major during the same period (Americans had won fifteen).
The format for the Ryder Cup Matches has changed over the years. From the inaugural event to 1959 the Ryder Cup was a two-day competition, with four 36-hole foursomes matches on the first day and eight 36-hole singles matches on the second day, for a total of 12 points. In 1961 the matches were changed to 18 holes each but the number of matches was doubled, resulting in a total of 24 points. In 1963 the event was expanded to three days, with eight four-ball matches being added on the middle day to make 32 points. This format was maintained until 1977, when the number of matches was reduced to 20: five foursomes matches on the first day, five four-ball matches on the second day, and ten singles matches on the final day. In 1979 (the first year continental European players participated) the format was changed to the 28-match version observed today.