In 39 Ryder Cup clashes there have been 900 matches between 327 golfers, led by 49 Captains and played on 33 different courses. In 1979 Team Great Britain & Ireland became Team Europe and in the subsequent matches, Europe have won eight, the USA seven, with one tied.
The 40th Ryder Cup clash tees off next month, September 26-28 on the Jack Nicklaus designed PGA Centenary Course at the Gleneagles Hotel in Perthshire, Scotland. No doubt drama and tension will unfold as the 24 best players from USA and Europe go head to head in matchplay formats. The victor will lift the famed Ryder Cup, so named after its founder Samuel Ryder.
Ryder was born near Preston in 1858 and established a successful business selling penny packets of garden seed. But as his health suffered he was encouraged to take up golf which he did enthusiastically. He sponsored several events and in particular funded the 1926 unofficial international match between the USA and GB at Wentworth.
Relishing the occasion he quickly agreed to donate a gold trophy for future events and even helped finance the first British team. The Ryder Cup was born: his name inextricably linked with golf’s most prestigious team event.
Less well known is Donald Matheson, the General Manager of The Caledonian Railway Company, which owned and operated the Perth-Stirling line running through the valley at the foot of Perthshire’s Ochil Hills. On a blustery day in 1910, Matheson, captivated by the stunning countryside and majestic views, envisaged building a large luxury country house hotel with extensive golf course facilities.
The vision became Gleneagles, and James Braid, five times Open Championship winner, carved out the wilderness landscape to create the Kings and Queens Courses using only manual labour, horsecarts, and picks and shovels. The Kings Course duly opened in 1919, the hotel in 1924. Matheson had started a chain of events that would become part of Ryder Cup history.
For it was on the Kings Course in 1921 that the very first but unofficial match between Great Britain and USA took place. The Americans were routed but the appetite was whetted for more transatlantic challenges. The informal 1926 match at Wentworth Club funded by Samuel Ryder was the final impetus.
I’ve some great memories of meeting Ryder Cup legends. Fifty years after he played in the 2nd Ryder Cup, 3 times player and twice captain, Henry Cotton visited me in Scotland. In Ireland , Christy O’Connor Senior (who played in 10 consecutive Ryder Cups from 1955, a record surpassed only by Nick Faldo) guided me around Cork and Killarney. And 70 years after the 1921 match at Gleneagles I stood on the first tee of The Kings Course with my Pro Am partner…. 7 times Ryder Cup player and 2012 captain, Jose Maria Olazabal. But that’s a story for another day.