Behind the Ryder Cup: The Players’ Stories (1929 & 1931)
With nine days to go until Hazeltine we begin 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:
Gene Sarazen: You have to remember that the Ryder Cup was the players’ idea. It came from them. Even before Sam Ryder became involved we had played two matches between the professionals of the United States and Great Britain. But in those first matches we paid our own expenses. We came over for the Open and stayed on to play the match. I think there was more spirit, more of a will to win. That’s what we were there for.
Henry Cotton: Walter Hagen was making big money and spending most of it while living life to the full. One day I said to him, ‘I would love to have one of your clubs.’ ‘What club would you like?’ he answered. They were all hickory shafts then and I had fancied a number eight of today from his bag marked, then, a ‘mashie niblick’.
He said, ‘Come and pick it up some time,’ and so whilst in Paris I went to Claridges in the Champs-Élysées where he was staying, telephoned his room, and was invited to ‘Come on up, Kiddo.’ He had a suite of connecting rooms, something like 407 to 415, so I went to 407, knocked on the door and when there was no answer to my ‘Hello?’ I pushed open the door. Inside was a girl wearing a negligee. ‘Mr Hagen?’ I enquired. She appeared not to know who he was, but indicated that I should go to the next room.
To my great embarrassment – I was a fairly innocent twenty-two-year-old chap – I then went through a whole series of rooms, one after the other, all full of half-dressed young ladies! I eventually found Walter lying on his bed with the telephone still in his hand – he hadn’t put it down after speaking to me and he was fast asleep!
I wasn’t surprised that he was exhausted. I didn’t know what to do, but there were a whole lot of clubs in one corner and obviously he had sorted some out. As he was soon to depart for America, by ship of course, I didn’t want to wake him, so I helped myself to an eight-iron, left a goodbye and thank you note and went quietly away.
Bobby Jones: The 7–5 loss in 1929, probably in the long run, was a good thing for international competition and thereafter the American team were on edge, trying hard to recoup their lost prestige.
Gene Sarazen: It was very tense when we got together. We wanted to beat the British in the worst way. They looked upon us Americans as no more than a bunch of caddies.
I halved my singles match with Charlie Whitcombe in 1927, took a good thrashing from Archie Compston in 1929, and finally got into the win column in 1931 at Scioto, when I played Fred Robson. The match had a very bizarre turning point. Fred and I were moving along at about the same speed when, playing a short hole, he put his shot well on and I hooked mine over the green.
My ball cannoned off some Coca-Cola boxes and bounded through the door and into the refreshment stand. Fred rested on the green while I walked into the stand. I found my ball nestling in a crack on the cement floor. At first I was going to pick up from my practically unplayable lie, but our match was close at this point and I didn’t want to concede the hole without making some sort of stab for my half.
The operator of the stand helped my caddie and me move the refrigerator out of the way. I took my niblick, and picking the ball cleanly off the cement, lofted it out through the window of the stand and onto the green ten feet from the cup. Fred three-putted carelessly from twenty-five feet, as if he were just finishing up the hole. I rolled my putt in for a three. As we walked off the green, Fred surprised me by saying, ‘That was very tough luck, Gene.’
‘Fred, I had a three,’ I answered.
His face fell. ‘You did, Gene!’ he exclaimed incredulously. ‘I thought you had an unplayable lie in the stand and had played a hand-mashie.’
This incident so disconcerted Fred that he never hit another good shot and lost the match 7&6.
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!