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The early years

We look back at the origins of the Ryder Cup with a potted history of golf's most famous team event

Last Updated: 28/08/12 9:47pm

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1929: Ryder hands the cup to Duncan

1929: Ryder hands the cup to Duncan

Although the Ryder Cup as we now know it began in 1927, its forerunner existed in an unofficial form several years earlier.

The first informal match was held in 1921, when GB and Ireland won 9-3, but the second unofficial match at Wentworth Club in 1926 was even worse for the Americans, who had travelled over for Open qualifying.

In the gallery for that meeting was English seed merchant and entrepreneur Samuel Ryder and the germ of an idea began to grow.

"Why can't they all get to know each other?" said Ryder, who took up golf at the age of 50 in attempt to stave off ill health.

"I will give £5 to each of the winning players, and give a party afterwards, with champagne and chicken sandwiches."

Later that evening in a pub, British team member George Duncan turned to Ryder and said: "This is wonderful. It's too bad we don't have a match like this which is official."

That was all it took. "Why not?" was Ryder's response. He commissioned the design of the gold chalice that bears his name and the likeness of British star of the time Abe Mitchell.

An appeal for £3,000 to finance the first British Ryder Cup team was met with apathy and fell £500 short of the goal, but Ryder made up the deficit.

The inaugural match took place at Worcester Country Club, Massachusetts, in 1927 and the US won 9.5-2.5 - beginning nearly six decades of dominance.

Ryder lived to see two Ryder Cups on home soil but in January 1936 he suffered a massive haemorrhage and died aged 77. He was buried with his favourite five iron.

After an interruption for the war - during which exhibition matches were played instead - the Ryder Cup resumed with a seventh meeting in 1947 at Portland Golf Club, Oregon.

The first tied match took place at Southport's Royal Birkdale in 1969 with 17 of the 32 matches going down to the last hole

Sportsmanship

It was also memorable for one of the great instances of sportsmanship when Jack Nicklaus, playing in his first Ryder Cup, conceded a two-foot putt to Tony Jacklin after making a four-footer for par on the last green.

American captain Sam Snead was furious with Nicklaus for conceding the putt and refused to speak to him all evening.

In 1973, the Ryder Cup was contested for the first time in Scotland at historic Muirfield, and six years later players from continental Europe were welcomed into the fold as the USA's stranglehold continued.

This was as a result of the emergence of the professional golf scene in Europe, although who can say to what effect multiple major winner Jack Nicklaus' complaints to the PGA of Great Britain about the need to improve the competitive level of the contest had?

British PGA president Lord Derby was convinced: "It is vital to widen the selection procedures if the Ryder Cup is to continue to enjoy its past prestige."

The first two Europeans to make the overseas squad were two Spaniards - Severiano Ballesteros and Antonio Garrido in 1979.

However in both 1979 and 1981 the results stayed the same - USA won yet again.

It was only in 1983 that things began to change. European captain Tony Jacklin not only demanded the team were treated properly (in the past they often cobbled uniform together) but that Ballesteros be the on-course leader of the team.

After a narrow defeat in Florida in 1983 Ballesteros turned to his distraught team-mates and implored them to treat the result a victory and proof they were able to win. That moment changed the history of the Ryder Cup.

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