My Ryder Cup: Peter Alliss
“It’s very difficult to go back and look at things because today’s world is so very different. It almost borders on being ridiculous to think about but it really was so simplistic back then.
“At the same time, it was also magnificent and huge.”
It may have been some 67 years ago but for eight-time Ryder Cup player and legendary sports broadcaster Peter Alliss, his fond memories from The Ryder Cup feel like only yesterday.
Adored by many as the ‘voice of golf,’ people often forget that the 89-year-old enjoyed a stellar golfing career, picking up 31 professional wins before his retirement in 1975.
When you consider the fact 20 of these triumphs came between 1952 and 1969, it’s no wonder the Englishman only missed one Ryder Cup in this timeframe.
The first of these appearances came in 1953 at Wentworth Club in Surrey, England, under Team Great Britain Captain Henry Cotton.
“It was just after the war and people were still suffering under austerity and we stayed in the Dormy House in Sunningdale, which was used by British Airways pilots back in the day.
“They (Team USA) were better dressed than us, they brought their wives who were elegant, wearing fur coats and diamond rings - they were a different class. They stayed in a very expensive hotel in London, whereas we were just down the road in Sunningdale.
“It was all very exciting, but we were very much the underdogs - almost second class citizens.
“But Henry (Cotton) managed to get us a few steaks and a couple of bottles of wine. We had half a glass of red wine every night and we drank Perrier water - never tap. It was just a great experience.
“I was only 22 years of age at the time and it was all new to me. We’d head up to Wentworth and we used to practice by putting five shillings in the kitty. Can you imagine that now? We'd play strokeplay and whoever won took home the money.
“All we had was a couple of pairs of golf shoes, a waterproof suit, two pairs of trousers, three shirts from Pringle, a couple of cashmere sweaters, a cheap golf bag, a set of head-covers, an umbrella and that was it. A lot less than players get today.
“But you knew if you played in The Ryder Cup that you had a prestige and you could put it on your CV. Nobody can ever take that away from you.
“The Ryder Cup is one of the world's best sporting events. It's such an honour to say I've played in golf’s greatest team event eight times.”
However, Alliss’ debut Ryder Cup didn’t quite go according to plan.
The 1953 Ryder Cup consisted of one foursomes session of four matches and a singles session of eight matches the following day.
Great Britain trailed 3-1 after the Friday foursomes matches, meaning they would have to turn it around in the Saturday singles matches.
And they did.
Dai Rees may have fell to defeat to Jack Burke Jr in the first match, but wins from Fred Daly, Eric Brown and Harry Weetman brought Great Britain back into contention.
Cary Middlecoff then moved Team USA to five points before Harry Bradshaw levelled the scores at 5-5.
This meant Team Great Britain only needed 1 ½ points from the final two matches to win The Ryder Cup.
Alliss would find himself one down against Jim Turnesa as they strolled down the 18th, despite being up by one after 14 holes, yet with his opponent in the trees all Alliss needed to do was make five.
Unfortunately, the then 22-year-old fluffed his chip and halved the hole with a six. When Bernard Hunt missed a four foot putt in the final match on the course to half his match with Dave Douglas, Great Britain fell to an agonising 6 ½ - 5 ½ defeat.
“We should have won.
“And we would have done if Bernard Hunt and I had won our matches.
“But it wasn't just us. Dai Rees and Max Faulkner were two of our premium players and they didn't perform. We were overshadowed by the occasion.
“We (Alliss and Hunt) were severely attacked by the press saying we'd let the side down. The fact was we hadn't won since the 1930s and we should have won this one. Unfortunately, we didn’t.”
Alliss would miss The 1955 Ryder Cup but once again made the team in 1957 held at Lindrick Golf Club, England. The scars from 1953 were still present and the press went in on the Englishman again.
Despite the negativity from the media, Alliss and his teammates didn’t let this deter them and they ran out 7 ½ - 4 ½ victors – Great Britain’s first Ryder Cup victory since 1933.
“We were well down in the foursomes matches and the press bashed us again. They criticised us heavily saying we've no chance of winning. A couple of the press boys made bold statements about what they'd do if we actually managed to win.
“And low and behold we did win! There was great jubilation.
“The Americans were not used to losing so they were very unhappy about it. When you haven't lost for many years, it's a big body blow.
“They had to sit through dinner when everyone on our side of the room is singing and jibing and really rubbing their faces in it. It wasn't really intentional, but we were just so jolly. It was just an exhilarating moment.”
For Alliss, his undefeated record against Arnold Palmer in singles matches at the biennial event is a career highlight.
The two players faced each other on two occasions, with Alliss returning 1 ½ points for his side.
“Arnold was the main man. He was the god of golf at the time and no one wanted to play him.
“I was drawn against him in 1961 at Royal Lytham and St Annes Golf Club and managed to get a half. Two years later, at Atlanta Athletic Club, I managed to beat him by one hole.
“I was so afraid of being beat 10&8 that I concentrated more and I just found something that made me play well. I never really discovered that same feeling playing in The Open Championship but I just concentrated as much as I could and beat him.
“It was hard work because everyone in America was on Arnold's side, of course. It wasn't quite like a football crowd but they were saying things like: ‘Get the son of a b**** Arnie.’
“It was a bit painful but they soon quietened down when I beat him.
“But Arnie was wonderful on the course and he was one of my great friends.”
Another rare feat the Englishman holds is he is one of two father and son duos to have played in The Ryder Cup.
Before Peter had even made his debut appearance in 1953, his father Percy had made four appearances for the Great Britain side between 1929 and 1937.
However, unusually, he never watched his father play in The Ryder Cup and rarely watched him in tournament play.
“I never watched my father at The Ryder Cup. He was in Germany from around 1926 to 1932 and at that time you had to be a resident in the UK to play in The Ryder Cup team.
“So the team went to America and played without Henry Cotton and Percy Alliss. Two of their best players weren't there to play because they were residents in Europe.
“He was picked for all the teams in the 1930’s but they didn't play the matches in the 1939 because of the war.
“I saw him play in the 1945 British PGA Matchplay Championship at Walton Heath where he got to the final but was beaten by a pro called Reg Horne. That's the only time I ever saw him play properly.”