The Formative Years
1947 - 1967
1947111Portland Golf Club, Portland, OregonIt’s doubtful the Ryder Cup would have resumed in 1947 had an Oregon fruit grower and canner, Robert A. Hudson, not come forward to fund the British Team. Food rationing was still enforced in Great Britain when Hudson, who also was a member of the PGA Advisory Committee (1946- 68), stepped up and offered his help and the use of Portland Golf Club as the host site.
Hudson was the perfect host, meeting the Great Britain team in New York after they arrived on the Queen Mary and joining the players for a 31⁄2-day rail journey to the Pacific Northwest. During the trip, GB’s Max Faulkner – who had requested the train route in advance – surprised his teammates by citing American history along the route. Once at Portland Golf Club, the Americans were overwhelming in their dominance on a course that suffered under extremely wet conditions. Only GB’s Sam King was able to muster a point, defeating Herman Keiser, 4 and 3, in the singles.
Following the 11-1 Ryder Cup win for the Americans, Hudson sent Christmas baskets of food to all members of the British Team and others he met in 1947 and again in 1951. Even when food rationing ended, the baskets continued to arrive. The USA Team featured Byron Nelson and Sam Snead, the only members of the 1937 unit. It was the first USA Team selected via a points system, designed by PGA Tournament Committee Chairman George Schneiter.
194957Ganton Golf Club, Scarborough, EnglandThe USA Team was without three of America’s top players. Non-playing Captain Ben Hogan was still crippled from his February 1949 automobile accident, while Byron Nelson had retired from serious competition and U.S. Open winner Cary Middlecoff was not a PGA member and thus couldn’t compete.
However, the Americans found enough reserve power when needed for the 7-5 triumph. On the eve of competition, Hogan raised a small controversy when he complained about the grooves on the clubs of some of the Great Britain players. This was Hogan’s retaliation for an incident in 1947, when GB’s Sir Henry Cotton asked for an inspection of Hogan’s clubs. No “illegal” grooves were discovered at that time. Hogan’s objections, however, were on target. The GB Team met with Royal and Ancient Rules of Golf Committee member Bernard Darwin that evening, and Darwin said the clubs should be repaired to meet conforming standards. The clubs were brought back to Ganton Golf Club in Scarborough, where Host Professional Jock Ballantine spent the evening filing away the prohibited grooves. The following day, the British jumped to a 3-1 lead in the foursomes before the Americans rallied and dominated the singles, 6-2.
The keys to the U.S. recovery were in Clayton Heafner’s 3-4-3-3 finish to defeat Richard Burton, 3 and 2; Jimmy Demaret’s 7-and-6 rout of Arthur Lees and Lloyd Mangrum’s 4-and-3 win over Fred Daly. Robert A. Hudson, whose generosity in funding the British team resulted in saving the Ryder Cup in 1947, was appointed “Honorary Secretary” of the 1949 U.S. Ryder Cup Team.
195191/221/2Pinehurst Resort, Pinehurst, North CarolinaCaptain Sam Snead, who has often called Pinehurst No. 2 his favorite course, “quarterbacked” the American charge by teaming with Lloyd Mangrum for a 5-and-4 decision in the foursomes and downing Max Faulkner in singles, 4 and 3. So convincing was the American performance that only two of the 12 matches reached the 18th hole. Arthur Lees scored all of GB&I’s points in the 9.5 to 2.5 loss to the Americans.
Overlooked in the American rout was the play of Jimmy Demaret, who would retire from Ryder Cup competition with the best unbeaten mark in event history (6-0-0). Dai Rees, the veteran Briton who would end his career a decade later after nine Ryder Cup appearances, paid Demaret the utmost praise after a 2-up defeat: “Jimmy performed wondrous things in bunkers. I regard him as the greatest sand player I have ever seen. He was in 11 greenside bunkers that day and on 10 occasions he got down with a splash and a putt.” Demaret capped his performance at Pinehurst by holing out for a birdie 2 from a buried lie at the 17th greenside bunker. After the match, Demaret handed his sand wedge to Rees as a gift. Rees later said that he was so enthralled by the club that he copied it for his own set.
195351/261/2Wentworth Golf Club, Wentworth, EnglandIn the most hotly contested Ryder Cup since 1933, the Americans didn’t gain the 6.5 to 5.5 victory until the waning hour of the singles matches, when Bernard Hunt missed a putt on the 18th green at Wentworth Golf Club to half with Dave Douglas. Earlier, teammate Peter Alliss took a 6 at the final hole to drop a 1-up decision to Jim Turnesa.
The American team didn’t include Ben Hogan, who was enjoying his greatest year and one of the greatest seasons in golf history. Hogan limited his play to 72-hole, four-day, medal-play events. This precluded his participating in both the PGA Championship (which was conducted too early following his Open Championship victory) and the Ryder Cup. Both the PGA Championship and Ryder Cup had 36-hole matches during this period. Walter Burkemo took Hogan’s place and was joined by newly crowned Canadian Open champion Douglas, Ted Kroll and former U.S. Open Champion Cary Middlecoff. Also among the rookies was Ireland’s Harry Bradshaw, who gained a start in the opening day foursomes while veterans Dai Rees and Max Faulkner were held out of the competition by Captain Sir Henry Cotton.
In an effort to build camaraderie before the Ryder Cup, Cotton took his players to London to see the play “Guys and Dolls.” However, the relaxation didn’t help his team as the U.S. took a 3-1 lead after the foursomes. Alliss and Hunt, unfortunately, shouldered the burden in the waning moments of the singles Alliss chunked a chip shot on the 18th green and eventually suffered a double-bogey 6 for his half with Turnesa. Hunt walked through a crowd up the final fairway. He had pushed his second shot near a big tree short and right of the green. He overshot the green with his approach and needed three putts from there to lose the hole and half with Douglas. Following Ryder Cup play, U.S. Captain Lloyd Mangrum said he would “never, never captain an American Team again because of the 9,000 deaths I suffered in the last hour.”
195584Thunderbird Golf & Country Club, Palm Springs, CaliforniaThe backbone of this U.S. victory was the dynamic quartet of Tommy Bolt, Jack Burke Jr., Doug Ford and Sam Snead. They had two victories apiece to account for all of the American points. Chick Harbert was named U.S. Captain, and guided a team featuring five rookies: Jerry Barber, Bolt, Ford, Marty Furgol and Chandler Harper.
The Great Britain Team was the first comprised of the top seven players earning points through the Order of Merit. Those seven then chose the three at-large players. The only cliff-hanger match in the 8-4 U.S. triumph was Bolt and Burke’s 1-up struggle over Arthur Lees and Harry Weetman. The Americans gained a 1-up lead heading into the 18th hole when Bolt and Lees each hit outstanding approach shots. But Burke and Weetman each holed birdie putts to give the U.S. a key point and a 3-1 foursomes lead.
Lord Brabazon of Tara, then president of the Professional Golfers Association of Great Britain, said in the closing ceremony: “We have learned a lot, although we have lost, and we are going back to practice in the streets and on the beaches.”
195771/241/2Lindrick Golf Club, Yorkshire, EnglandSir Stuart Goodwin, a Yorkshire industrialist, donated £10,000 to finance the Great Britain Ryder Cup Team and was invited to nominate the venue. Goodwin chose Lindrick Golf Club. The GB Team, selected by an entirely new points system, was led by the indomitable Dai Rees, who captained and played his team into a rousing final-day rally. The Americans built a 3-1 lead after the foursomes, but Rees and Ken Bousfield, who had teamed for the lone foursomes victory, provided the spark. Great Britain earned a 6.5 to 1.5 decision in the singles.
Rees held a team meeting after the foursomes to determine who should be represented on the final day. Harry Weetman and Max Faulkner were chosen to stand down, though Weetman was later quoted as never wanting to play again for a team captained by Rees. Weetman was later suspended by the PGA of Great Britain for one year. But Rees later moved to have the suspension reduced.
Meanwhile, the GB Team rallied around Rees and turned in a memorable singles performance. Rees routed Ed Furgol, 7 and 6, Bousfield eased past Lionel Hebert, 4 and 3, and Christy O’Connor outdistanced Dow Finsterwald, 7 and 6. The decisive match honor went to Bousfield, who suffered a temporary collapse on the back nine and lost three holes in a row to Hebert. Without benefit of extra scoreboards on the course, Bousfield was looking for a spark. Shortly thereafter, Rees and Faulkner appeared in the gallery and encouraged their teammate. Bousfield closed out Hebert with a half at the 15th hole to end the match, as the GB Team prevailed, 7.5 to 4.5.
195981/231/2Eldorado Country Club, Palm Desert, CaliforniaThe Great Britain team’s ride to the 13th Ryder Cup became an omen of the competition that would follow a week later in the desert. On Oct. 29, 1959, some 29 passengers boarded a plane from Los Angeles to Palm Springs, California. The plane encountered severe turbulence from a nearby storm and plunged from 13,000 to 9,000 feet before the pilot gained control. The pilot returned to Los Angeles and announced that a later flight would be arranged that evening. Great Britain's Captain Dai Rees canceled the flight, and the team arrived in Palm Springs by bus.
Once on the course, there was little Great Britain could do to stop an American steamroller performance. Dow Finsterwald, PGA Champion Bob Rosburg and Mike Souchak each contributed two points in a runaway U.S. victory. The Americans were handed a half in the final foursomes match of the opening day, as Sam Snead and Cary Middlecoff faced GB's Harry Weetman and Dave Thomas. Snead dumped his approach shot on the 470-yard 18th hole into the water. The best the U.S. could salvage was a 5. But Weetman made the matter elementary when, instead of laying up safely, he hit a 5-iron that also found the water.
Snead finished by holing a 10-footer for a bogey and the half as the U.S. won, 8.5 to 3.5. Weetman said later that he never intended to play safe. “I never do,” he said. “It’s not my game. I just didn’t hit the right shot.” This edition of the Ryder Cup resulted in several key changes. It was the last time a visiting GB Ryder Cup Team (despite the near disastrous flight a week earlier) made a journey by sea. And it marked the last time the matches were contested over 36 holes of foursomes and singles.
196191/2141/2Royal Lytham & St. Annes, St. Annes, EnglandThis edition of the Ryder Cup was the first to be played in two sets of 18- hole foursomes and singles, which doubled the number of points available from 12 to 24. The move was proposed by Lord Brabazon, then president of The Professional Golfers Association of Great Britain, in March 1960. The PGA of America agreed to the format change, and in September 1960 a tournament players’ sub-committee further recommended the Ryder Cup be extended to three days, with the extra day to include four-ball matches. Four-ball competition was introduced in 1963.
Meanwhile, the USA Team turned in another consistent and strong performance to retain the Ryder Cup, 14.5 to 9.5. It was the debut of Arnold Palmer, who would go on to post 23 career points won in 32 matches. Palmer’s presence and the strength of such teammates as Mike Souchak, who each contributed 3.5 points, made up for the absence of veteran Sam Snead, who was suspended from competition for 45 days by the PGA for competing in a non-sanctioned tour event, the Portland Open. Snead sought approval too late, bowed out of the second round of the pro-am and appealed at the PGA Annual Meeting after the Ryder Cup had been played. Snead’s probation was reduced to 45 days, but he would not compete again in the Ryder Cup and was named non-playing Captain in 1969. Doug Ford replaced Snead on the USA Team in ‘61.
1963239East Lake Golf Club, Atlanta, GeorgiaWith Great Britain determining that a non-playing Captain was more advantageous to planning strategy in a Ryder Cup competition, the U.S. didn’t follow the cue. Arnold Palmer debuted in style as a playing Captain and led his team to the second-largest victory margin in Ryder Cup history, 23 to 9. It was the first Ryder Cup with four-ball competition, increasing the point total to 32 points.
Palmer had already won the Masters three times, the U.S. Open once and the Open Championship twice before earning PGA membership and subsequent Ryder Cup eligibility. Joining Palmer were rookies Tony Lema, Billy Maxwell, Johnny Pott and Dave Ragan. “This team would beat the rest of the world combined,” said Palmer before the start of the Ryder Cup. Palmer’s bold assessment proved true as America swept the second series of foursomes, then took the four-balls, 6-2, and rolled to victory in the singles, 7.5 to 0.5.
1965121/2191/2Royal Birkdale Golf Club, Southport, EnglandThe first two days of foursomes and four-balls proved exciting for spectators at Royal Birkdale Golf Club. The Americans held a slim 9-7 advantage heading into the singles, but dominated on the final day, winning 10 of the final 16 points for a 19.5 to 12.5 win. The difference was the USA Team’s ability to convert necessary points through deft short games and handling Royal Birkdale’s final six holes.
The Americans mastered the “punch” shot low into an ever-present wind, while the Great Britain team preferred to lob short approaches into the air. Royal Birkdale member and Professional Golfers Association Vice President Brian Park promoted the matches through his personal donation of £11,000. The result was an expanded venue for spectators that included a hospitality pavilion, a large tented village, trade exhibition and expanded souvenir programs, and scorekeepers carrying individual match results on standards.
The USA Team arrived handicapped when Johnny Pott ruptured a muscle in his lower back during practice and was sidelined. Also, 1964 U.S. Open Champion Ken Venturi had surgery early in 1965 for circulatory problems in his hands. Yet the Americans were dominant in the singles when it mattered most.
1967231/281/2Champions Golf Club, Houston, TexasHow dominant was the 1967 U.S. Ryder Cup Team? All that needed to be said was uttered by American Captain Ben Hogan at a team dinner on the eve of the Ryder Cup. Hogan waited patiently while Great Britain Captain Dai Rees, making his final appearance in the Ryder Cup, gave a long introduction of his team’s roster before taking his seat. Hogan then stood and asked that applause be withheld until the end. After introducing each player by name only and with his entire team standing, Hogan said, “Ladies and gentlemen, the U.S. Ryder Cup Team – the finest golfers in the world.” Then he sat down to a storm of applause.
The USA Team, which posted its largest victory margin in Ryder Cup history, 23.5 to 8.5, didn’t include Jack Nicklaus, winner of seven major championships but who had yet to complete his required five-year period as a PGA member. The U.S. was led by Gardner Dickinson and Arnold Palmer, each unbeaten in five matches.