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2008 United States
Ryder Cup Team

The Ryder Cup

The Ryder Cup – In the Beginning Ryder Cup History

The Ryder Cup, among the last great professional sporting events where winning, and not prize money, is its own reward, spans 36 competitions over 79 years. The idea to stage international matches between the best American professionals and those of Great Britain is a subject of debate among golf historians.

PGA President George Sargent (1921-26) credited Sylvanus P. Jermain, president of Inverness Club in Toledo, Ohio, for first presenting the concept, in 1921. A number of people were instrumental in creating the first unofficial matches at Gleneagles, Scotland in 1921, when the British side eased to a 9-3 victory.

Golf Illustrated’s American circulation manager, James Harnett, should be credited for his role, in 1920, when he solicited The PGA of America to financially support a team of Americans to play in Scotland preceding the £2000 Match Play Championship at St. Andrews.

Another unofficial match occurred in 1926 when the R&A initiated qualifying for its Open Championship, giving American players more time in England. Wealthy Englishman Samuel Ryder and Walter Hagen deserve the credit for this match, contested June 4-5, at Wentworth Golf Club in Surrey. It was the true beginning of the Ryder Cup because two months before the match, Ryder had promised a Cup to the winning side.

That a cup was not actually presented has confused the history and the tally of the matches.

War-Torn Matches

With the outbreak of World War II, the Ryder Cup was suspended from 1939-45, and the U.S. retained the trophy from its 1937 victory. However, the United States continued the spirit of the Ryder Cup by selecting a 10-member team that participated in “challenge” matches to raise funds for the American Red Cross, various service organizations and other war-related efforts. With the 1939 Ryder Cup canceled, challenge competitions were arranged from 1940-43, with two at Oakland Hills Country Club in Bloomfield Township, Mich., in 1940 and 1942; at Detroit Golf Club, in 1941; and at Plum Hollow Country Club, in suburban Detroit, in 1943. The Ryder Cup Team, which had various members during that period, won four of the five challenge matches.

Walter Hagen captained the 1939, ’40 and ’41 Ryder Cup Teams, while Craig Wood captained the team in 1942 and 1943. There was no competition in 1939, though the Ryder Cup was set for Ponte Vedra (Fla.) Country Club in November of that year. The 1939 U.S. selections were repeated in 1940 in a challenge match at Oakland Hills Country Club in Bloomfield Township, Mich., against Gene Sarazen’s Challengers. Sarazen, who was left off the Ryder Cup Team, challenged Hagen by assembling a team that included Ben Hogan, Jimmy Demaret and Craig Wood.

In 1939, The Professional Golfers Association of Great Britain had selected eight players and Captain Henry Cotton before war interrupted further plans. The eight players named were: Jimmy Adams, Dick Burton, Sam King, Alf Padgham, Dai Rees, Charles Whitcombe and Reg Whitcombe. The remaining two members were never filled. During the war, the exhibition matches brought together the greatest players of the era, including amateur Bobby Jones, who led his team to an 8½-6½ upset of the Ryder Cup Team, Aug. 23-24, 1941, at Detroit Golf Club.

Europeans Join the Fight for the Cup

In 1973, the Ryder Cup was contested for the first time in Scotland at historic Muirfield. The PGA of Great Britain altered its selection procedure by having eight players chosen from a year-long points system and four by invitation.

During the 1977 Ryder Cup at Royal Lytham & St. Annes, Jack Nicklaus approached the PGA of Great Britain about the urgency to improve the competitive level of the event. The issue had been discussed earlier the same day by then-PGA President Henry Poe and British PGA President Lord Derby. Nicklaus pitched his ideas, adding, “It is vital to widen the selection procedures if the Ryder Cup is to continue to enjoy its past prestige.”

The changes in team selection procedure were approved by descendants of the Samuel A. Ryder family along with The PGA of America. The major change was expanding selection procedures to include players from the British PGA European Tournament Division Order of Merit, and “that European members be entitled to play on the team.”

This meant that professional players on the European Tournament Players Order of Merit could be natives and residents of countries other than the British Isles, as long as they were from continental Europe. The recommendation and succeeding approval of the new selection process followed another American victory at Royal Lytham & St. Annes in 1977. The first Ryder Cup under the expanded European selection format was played in 1979 at The Greenbrier in White Sulphur Springs, W. Va. The first two Europeans to make the overseas squad were a pair of Spaniards–Severiano Ballesteros and Antonio Garrido.

Ballesteros has gone on to become one of the all-time winners in the Ryder Cup. He has a 20-12-5 record and earned 22½ points in 37 matches.

The move to include the continental players was a major step in upgrading the Ryder Cup competitive level. The U.S. had won all but one outing from 1959 to 1977, being tied, 16-16, in a memorable duel in 1969 at Royal Birkdale in Southport, England.

Expanding the selection procedure to include the European Tour provided the British PGA with a much greater pool of talent from which to select its team. The European Tour Order of Merit also ensured a team comprised of golfers who were playing their best at the time of selection.

The effect of this continental tour, with its varying types of golf courses, climates, food, language and customs, was to produce players of unprecedented durability. They possessed the technique and confidence to deal with all course situations and make the Ryder Cup even more of a quality event.

Ryder Cup Format Changes

From the beginning of the series through 1959, the Ryder Cup competition was comprised of four foursome (alternate shot) matches on one day and eight singles matches on the other day, each of 36 holes.

The format was changed in 1961 to provide four 18-hole foursome matches the morning of the first day, four more foursomes that afternoon, eight 18-hole singles the morning of the second day and eight more singles that afternoon. One point was at stake in each match, so the total number of points was doubled to 24. In 1963, four-ball (better-ball) matches were added for the first time, boosting the total number of points available to 32.

The format was altered again in 1977, this time with five foursomes on opening day, five four-ball matches on the second day, and 10 singles matches on the final day. This reduced the total points to 20.

In 1979, when the Great Britain & Ireland Team was expanded to include players from continental European countries, the format was revised to provide four four-ball and four foursome matches the first two days and 12 singles matches on the third day. The total points awarded were 28. This format will continue through the 2008 Ryder Cup.

The Ryder Cup was interrupted for the second time in history following the Sept. 11, 2001 attack upon America. Some eight days following the tragedy, the 2001 Ryder Cup was rescheduled, with all future competitions conducted in even-numbered years.

37th Ryder Cup Player Charity Distribution

In keeping with its plan established in 1999, The PGA of America again distributed a total of $2.6 million to charities, the Folds of Honor Foundation, and to colleges and universities chosen by the U.S. Captain and players in the 2008 Ryder Cup. With this donation, a total of $13 million has been distributed as designated by the 1999, 2002, '04, '06 and '08 U.S. Ryder Cup Teams.

Each U.S. Ryder Cup Team participant as well as U.S. Ryder Cup Team Captain Azinger, are contributing $100,000 to the charity of their choice; $90,000 to the college/university of their choice for Play Golf America University programming; and $10,000 to the Folds of Honor Foundation to support scholarships for families of veterans who either perished or were wounded in the line of duty while serving in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Since 1999, and covering a total of five U.S. Ryder Cup Teams and Captains, a total of 130 player-designated charities and 38 colleges and universities have received funding from the Ryder Cup Outreach Program.

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