Back in the days when golf’s greatest walked the fairways with us, this legend gave club golfers lessons while leading GB&I against the Americans
Long before TV was around to show Christy O’Connor Jnr spearing the 18th at the Belfry, or Jose Maria Olazabal’s victory jig at Muirfield Village, one of the more memorable Ryder Cup moments came at the exotically named Thunderbird Ranch.
It was 1955 and the California course was hosting what was then becoming the biennial rout between the USA and GB&I.
Two Johns, Jacobs and Fallon, were charged with leading the visitors into battle in the opening foursomes match and they took on Chandler Harper and Jerry Barber.
Harper had won the 1950 PGA Championship and had completed the Texas Open, four years later, in what was a record score of 259 – and the best-ever 54-hole total of 189.
To say the match was a cliffhanger was an understatement. The GB&I pair were 2-down at lunch, 1-up after 27 and still ahead by that slim margin as they arrived at the final hole.
Barber chipped in at the last for a par, leaving Fallon an evil looking four-footer across a sharp slope for his own four and to claim the glory.
Henry Longhurst described beautifully what happened next: “He looked ashen grey. He went slowly up, like the condemned man, and in the dead silence holed it to win.”
Fallon (third from the right in the picture above) didn’t play in the singles as GB&I went down 8-4 but it was an incredible moment for a man who spent most of his life away from the palm trees and sun of the American professional game.
It’s astonishing to us now, used to the riches and glamour of the European and PGA Tours, but most top professionals this side of the pond in the 1950s also worked as club pros and fixed slices when they weren’t winning tournaments.
Fallon, who was born in Lanark, spent 47 years in post at Huddersfield Golf Club, while also finishing third in the 1939 Open at St Andrews and second to Peter Thomson when the Claret Jug returned to the Old Course 16 years later.
Huddersfield’s renowned for being the birthplace of the Yorkshire Union of Golf Clubs and is still the county’s home. All of its honours boards are displayed in the Centenary Hall.
Alex Herd was the club’s first professional and he won the Open in 1902 but he didn’t captain a Ryder Cup team, which was Fallon’s honour when his side travelled to East Lake, in Atlanta, in 1963.
He was set against Arnold Palmer, who was the USA’s playing captain, and sent out Brian Huggett and George Will to down the darling of American golf, who was paired with Johnny Gott, 3&2 in the opening match.
That was as good as it got. It was the first three-day Ryder Cup, and introduced fourballs into the event, but the experiment wasn’t to Fallon’s benefit. GB&I were thumped 23-9 and only picked up half a point from the final afternoon’s eight singles matches.
Fallon, who won three times during his professional career, died in 1985.
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