The History of the Ryder Cup

Photo courtesy of European Tour
Photo courtesy of European Tour

Although the Ryder Cup was first contested in 1927, matches were played in an unofficial form several years prior to this. The first unofficial match took place in 1921 and saw Great Britain win 9-3, the second unofficial match in 1926 was an even worse day at the office for the Americans, who had travelled to England for Open qualifying.

It was the 1926 match that proved the most significant, as in the gallery for that meeting was English entrepreneur Samuel Ryder. Ryder took up Golf following doctor’s orders to partake in light exercise; he became infatuated with the sport so much so, that he hired golfing great Abe Mitchell as his tutor.

In the bar after the match, George Duncan said to Ryder “This is wonderful. It’s too bad we don’t have a match like this which is official.” Ryder’s response was “why not”? He then kindly agreed to donate a gold chalice to the event, but on one condition, the figure upon the chalice would have to resemble British golfing star Abe Mitchell.

His wish was duly met, and in 1927, the inaugural match took place at the Worcester Country Club in Massachusetts. The first blood was to the Americans who won 9.5-2.5 – this was the beginning of nearly six decades of dominance.

Sadly, due to ill health, Ryder only lived to witness two Ryder Cups on home soil and in January 1936, he passed away aged 77. His love for the game was evident when he was buried with his favorite five iron! Little did Ryder know that he the Ryder Cup would become one of the world’s most prestigious sporting events and bring joy and inspiration to millions of golfers and fans all over the world.

After the event was postponed due to the war, exhibition matches took place instead.  The Ryder Cup resumed in 1947 at the Portland Gold Club in Oregon.

In 1979, dramatic changes were made to representation rules which resulted in Great Britain becoming team Europe.  This meant that Spanish golfing legends Seve Ballesteros and Antonio Garrido were available for selection, and in 1979, they become the first continental golfers to play in the Ryder Cup.

Even though the Americans remained dominant after the representation rules, it wasn’t for long as the Europeans continuously closed the gap in playing standards. After narrowly losing on American soil in 1983, the Europeans were confident that they could finally keep the trophy on their side of the Atlantic for the first time since 1957. In 1985 Europe did just that, beating the Americans 16 ½ – 11 ½ at the Belfry club in Warwickshire, England.

Having finally achieved their goal to win back the Ryder Cup, Europe had a new goal, to make history and win for the first time on American soil. The 1987 Ryder Cup was hosted at Muirfield Village, the course that Jack Nicklaus built, and it was Nicklaus himself who was given the task of captaining the American side, but not even he could prevent the European invasion with Europe winning 15-13.

1989 saw the popularity of the Ryder Cup increase dramatically when matches were televised back to America for the first time. After years of dominance came to an end and the Ryder cup become more of an even contest, American golf fans suddenly started to take an interest in the competition.

Since 1987, Europe has been the more dominant of the two teams, winning 7 Ryder Cups to the United State’s 4.  This year Gleneagles will host the Ryder Cup in what promises to be another great spectacle.


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