The 41st Ryder Cup Matches will be held in the United States from September 30 to October 2, 2016, at the Hazeltine National Golf Club in Chaska, Minnesota, a suburb southwest of Minneapolis. Europe enters the competition as the cup holders, having won in 2014 in Scotland for their third consecutive win.
In the history of golf, the Ryder Cup has played a major role for over seventy years. Each year golf enthusiasts flock to the Ryder Cup, which has been hosted by a variety of countries, courses and climates, and every year they are rewarded with some of the most exciting and memorable matches. In order to understand the meaning and intensity of the Ryder Cup one must understand the rich traditions and evolutions that have taken place over the years for both the American and European teams.
Samuel Ryder: The Birth of the Ryder Cup Matches
There is debate among golf historians about exactly how the Ryder Cup began. Some claim the original idea was first developed in 1920 and the first unofficial matches played in 1921. What can be corroborated is the unofficial match of qualifying rounds that were called for just prior to the 1926 Open Golf Championship. The Americans formed a team to play against British professionals at Wentworth. As the Americans were defeated, Samuel Ryder, an Englishman and entrepreneur from St. Albans in Herfordshire, was in attendance.
In 1906 Ryder was elected mayor of St. Albans and his health suffered from working too much. Fresh air and light exercise were recommended to improve his health and it was suggested he take up golf. Later, after becoming an avid fan of the sport, Ryder employed Abe Mitchell as his instructor. Mitchell was considered one of Great Britain’s finest players and Ryder enjoyed watching the British team, which included Mitchell, defeat the Americans in the unofficial 1926 match. When it was suggested an official match be created, Samuel Ryder agreed to donate a solid gold trophy. He insisted that the figure on the cup resemble Mitchell. The inaugural Ryder Cup was planned for June 3-4, 1927 at the Worcester Country Club in Massachusetts. Ryder lived to see two Ryder Cup matches on his own soil and in 1936 he died. He was buried with his favorite mashie 5 iron
The Beginning of a Time Honored Golf Tradition
The Americans won the first inaugural match of the Ryder Cup. The team was captained by Walter Hagen and included Johnny Farrell, Johnny Golden, Gene Sarazen, Leo Diegel, Joe Turnesa, Bill Mehlhorn and Al Watrous. Americans dominated the Ryder Cup for 70 years with few exceptions, like the 1969 match, which ended in a 16-16 tie at Royal Birkdale and is considered one of the most memorable Ryder Cup matches ever played. In 1979 a major change occurred and players from the European continent began to compete for what would now be the European team instead of the British team. The American team won in 1979, 1981 and 1983, but the matches became more competitive as the European team had the opportunity to bring in new blood. In 1985 the European team won at the Belfry and then again at Muirfield Village. It was the first consecutive European win and the first on American soil.
Unforgettable Golf and Unforgettable Memories
The humble start of the Ryder Cup was inspired by a man’s love of golf and this tradition continues today. The Ryder Cup has spanned over 77 years and 34 competitions. In 1989, as media coverage increased the Ryder Cup increased its popularity. Americans watched Irish player Christy O’Connor win against Fred Couples. In 1991 Americans reclaimed the Ryder Cup with a victory in Kiawah Island, South Carolina. Then in 1993 the Americans won another close match at The Belfry.
In 1995 the Europeans made a comeback at the Oak Hill Country Club in Rochester, New York and they continued this winning streak in 1997 at the Valderamma Golf Club in Sotogrande, Spain. In 1999 the Americans made one of the greatest comebacks ever when after a seemingly impossible 10-6 deficit the Americans defeated the European team anyway. Recently, the European team has achieved victory in the 2004 match at Oakland Hills and in 2006 at the K-Club in Ireland. The pressure is now on the Americans to reclaim the trophy at the September 2008 Ryder Cup hosted by the Valhalla Country Club in Louisville, Kentucky.
Jim Ward is president of Premier Golf, the official travel company of the PGA of America since 1988 and the official distributor of Ryder Cup travel packages in North America. The company offers all-inclusive packages including hotel accommodations, round trip transportation from the hotel to the event and the all event Ryder Cup ticket.