Ryder Cup joy for Europe against the odds

But did you know the seed for this special sporting event was sown by former St Albans politician Samuel Ryder?

RYDER CUP: The golfing world was left emotionally-drained late on Sunday night as Jose Maria Olezabal’s European team completed one of the most remarkable comebacks in sporting history to win the Ryder Cup.

The biennial competition which pits 12 of Europe’s finest golfers against a dozen of America’s equivalent took place at Medinah, Chicago over the weekend – the 39th edition of this prestigious event that began in 1927.

Europe had looked dead and buried before the start of the third and final day, trailing 10-6 after two days of foursomes and fourballs had left the Americans needing only 41/2 points from the 12 singles matches to win the trophy.

But against all the odds, career-defining performances from Luke Donald, Rory McIlroy, Ian Poulter, Paul Lawrie, Martin Keymar, Lee Westwood, Justin Rose and Sergio Garcia earned the Europeans an unlikely 141/2 – 131/2 triumph. It was sport at its thrilling best.

But despite the spectacle attracting viewers in their millions across the globe, relatively few are probably aware of its origins – that the Ryder Cup was indeed founded by a respected businessman and politician of St Albans, Samuel Ryder.

The entrepreneur, who made a living selling postal-order penny packets of seeds, was elected to the St Albans Town Council in 1903, went on to become Mayor in 1905, and remained a respected councillor until 1916. Later in his life, mainly due to health reasons, he became a keen golfer.

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His interest in the sport led him to becoming a member of Verulam Golf Club, in which he was to be captain in 1911, 1926 and 1927, as well as serving on the greens committee for two decades.

Ryder was keen to encourage talented British golfers make a name for themselves at major competitions, such as the British Open, with financial support and sponsorship – much like that enjoyed my American golfers who were permitted to participate on the grand stage thanks often to wealthy benefactors over the pond.

In the few years prior to 1927, Ryder expanded his idea of championing new and exciting tournaments and challenge matches, which ultimately resulted in him paying for and commissioning the Ryder Cup – the beautifully-made gold trophy crafted by London silversmiths, Mappin & Webb.

Ryder presented the famous trophy to the Professional Golfers’ Association of Great Britain to be used for an international competition between GB and Ireland and the United States – the Ryder Cup Matches – which has since developed into one of sport’s greatest events.

The trophy itself weighs 4lbs, and stands at 17 inches high, and was first won by the United States in 1927 at the inaugural event at Worcester County Club, Massachusetts.

Ryder lived to the grand old age of 78 when he passed away in 1936, meaning he had little time to watch the tournament grow into the fantastic exhibition of golfing brilliance it has become. But the fact so many were able to enjoy the dramatic ups and downs of Sunday was largely down to this man’s vision and generosity, but most importantly, his love for the beautiful game.