Behind the Ryder Cup 1951: The Players’ Stories
With eight days to go until Hazeltine we continue our countdown to the famous competition with an extract from Behind the Ryder Cup: The Players’ Stories by Peter Burns with Ed Hodge, as told exclusively by the competitors:
Skip Alexander: I was on a flight from Kansas City to Louisville on 24 September, 1950. Halfway through the flight the reserve fuel tank failed and the plane began to go down. Since we were near the Evansville airport, we banked in to land and almost made it, crashing on the edge of the field. The next thing I remember was trying to force my way out of the cabin door and meeting a wall of flames. I quickly shut the door and opened it again, running out of the wreck on my broken left ankle. I guess I got about fifty yards before I collapsed and the fuel tank exploded.
I spent five months in hospital and had seventeen different surgeries.
People thought my career was over, but I had 726 points secured towards qualification for the ’51 Ryder Cup team. I was determined that I would make it.
My hands were all burned and skin-grafted. The extensors and other parts of the fingers were contracted so tightly that I didn’t have any openings. The doctors opened them up. They took a knuckle out and fused the remaining two knuckles together so they would fit a golf club.
Fourteen months after the crash, I was in the team.
I didn’t play in the Friday foursomes and we then took a break on the Saturday because there was a big football game on. The organisers said, ‘In North Carolina when Carolina plays Tennessee in a football game on Saturday, nobody watches golf.’ So they took the day off and we all went to the football game.
It was cold and (Dutch) Harrison got sick before the singles on Sunday, and Sam Snead came to me and said, ‘Can you play?’ I told him, ‘Yes, I can play.’
I don’t know whether it was mind games or whether he just thought he would sacrifice a point, but Sam put me up against John Panton, Britain’s best player.
I was all bandaged up; my hands were bleeding. John Panton was a Vardon Trophy winner, Order of Merit winner, leading money winner and everything. I’d never walked thirty-six holes before that let alone played thirty-six, and it was a thirty-six-hole match. So I took off, and every time I played a hole, I wondered if I could play the next. But it worked out all right. I beat him 8&7, which, I heard, was the biggest margin that anybody had won by. I three-putted number ten though, in that afternoon round, or I might have won 9&8. I remember wondering if that was the beginning of the end and I wouldn’t win another hole. As it turned out, it was. But what a match to win.
Enter the locker room and enjoy a unique new history of the Ryder Cup, golf’s biggest and most compelling team contest.
With exhaustive research and exclusive new material garnered from interviews with players and captains from across the decades, Behind The Ryder Cup: The Players’ Stories is a book on the event like no other.
From the origin matches that preceded the first official trans-Atlantic encounter between Britain and America at Worcester in 1927, all the way through to the 40th instalment at Gleneagles in 2014, this is the complete history of the Ryder Cup – told by the men who have been there and done it.
Get your copy here!