'How my grandfather created golf's Ryder Cup'
PUBLISHED: 10:56 25 September 2018 | UPDATED: 10:57 25 September 2018
What would he think of his event today? "He would be astounded. Whether he would be happy with the scale of it now, I'm not sure. He never visualised this."
Excitement is building among golf fans around the world ahead of next week’s Ryder Cup – but for one woman this huge sporting event has great personal significance.
Mary Moore is the grand-daughter of St Albans resident Samuel Ryder, the man who created what has become the biggest golf tournament on earth.
Mary lives in a village near Framlingham in Suffolk, where she and her late husband Hector ran their business at the forge. Marrying her design skills with his craftsmanship, the couple created 50 signs for villages, mostly in Suffolk but also in neighbouring counties.
When we meet, she is resplendent in her specially-made Ryder Cup tartan and brooch. During our chat, it’s quickly obvious that Mary has a fantastic memory for names, dates and facts, especially when it comes to the history of the Ryder Cup.
She did meet her grandfather Samuel, but she doesn’t remember it, because she was born in 1934, and he died two years later. “So he knew me as a baby, but sadly I don’t remember him.”
But her grandfather’s creation has been very much a part of her life. She has been to seven Ryder Cups in recent years, the first one being at The Belfry (near Birmingham) in 2002.
“The Ryder party”, usually numbering six or seven, are able to rub shoulders with celebrity guests – Mary is still mortified that she didn’t recognise Prince Albert of Monaco at one tournament!
Mary, now 84, is president of the Samuel Ryder Foundation, an organisation dedicated to building awareness of the tournament’s founder and the values which were important to him. Patrons include golfing luminaries Jack Nicklaus, Tony Jacklin, Colin Montgomerie and Peter Allis.
Samuel was a successful businessman in St Albans, and also mayor of the town. Mary explained how the Ryder Cup came into being: “He loved his sport, and his first love was cricket. But his health was always fragile, and his doctor suggested he should take up a less strenuous sport.
“He joined the Verulam Golf Club in St Albans, and he loved it. He was amazed how poorly golf professionals were paid, compared to other sports. Tennis players, for example. Golf was very much the poor relation.
“He thought golf in Britain needed a higher profile and he arranged a friendly match between Great Britain and the USA. It was a great success and it grew from there.” The first official Ryder Cup match took place in 1927.
In recent decades, since the introduction of European players, the two-yearly event has become much more competitive after previously being dominated by the USA. As a result, its profile has grown enormously and it now stands as one of the world’s sporting occasions.
How does Mary think her grandfather would view his event now? “He would be astounded. Whether he would be happy with the scale of it now, I’m not sure. He never visualised this.”
Mary herself is not thrilled by some of the antics of spectators who get carried away by the excitement of it all. “I’m not too keen when it gets too partisan. I don’t think alcohol should be allowed on the course.”
But, despite not playing golf, she says it is a “great privilege” to be so closely connected to the tournament. The first event she attended was in 2002 at The Belfry, which Europe won. Her first American event was in 2004 at Oakland Hills, which saw a record-breaking European victory.
But her favourite tournament was in 2010, at Celtic Manor, a rain-soaked event which went down to the wire, with Graeme McDowell clinching the trophy in the final singles match.
Mary said: “It rained and rained, so much that the tournament had to be extended to the Monday. It was so dramatic. That’s my outstanding memory.”
Her favourite player? “Colin Montgomerie, because he spoke to me so politely and pleasantly at one of the Ryder Cups.”
Mary won’t be able to travel to next week’s tournament near Paris because of some health problems, but she will be following the action closely on TV and thinks it is “likely” Europe will recapture the trophy.