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Monday, September 13, 1999 Published at 16:24 GMT 17:24 UK

Sam Ryder's Cup

Sam Ryder and daughter Joan head for America in 1927

The Ryder Cup was the brainchild of a workaholic Englishman who made his fortune selling penny seed packets to avid gardeners.

Samuel A Ryder, himself a fanatical golfer, first proposed a formal professional tournament between a team of Americans and a British selection after watching a friendly trans-Atlantic match at Wentworth in 1926.

The St Albans-based entrepeneur, whose health had suffered due to his punishing business schedule, originally took up golf as a means of relaxation.

Early wins

Despite being initially opposed to the idea - he much preferred cricket - Ryder was soon hooked and began to apply himself to the game with the same fervour that had made him sick at work.

[ image: 1997: Seve Ballesteros with the Cup]
1997: Seve Ballesteros with the Cup
He had no association with the first informal matches between the US and Britain, which were held at Gleneagles in 1921 and were won by the home side, 9 to 3.

They were followed by the Wentworth tournament, organised by a trans-Atlantic group of professionals who found themselves with time on their hands in the run up to the 1926 British Open.

Ryder had earlier employed British "artisan amateur"-turned-professional Abe Mitchell as his instructor and secured exclusive use of his services for a salary of 1,000-a-year.

Ryder Cup tea-off

It was Mitchell who beat British Open champion Jim Barnes of the US at Wentworth to secure a British team win by 13½ to 1½ - a match that Ryder watched.

When play had finished, Ryder met Mitchell and another British player, George Duncan, for tea, where they were joined by two American professionals, Walter Hagen and Emmett French.

[ image:  ]
Between them, they sketched the plans for the first Ryder Cup competition. Matches between the two countries' professional golf associations would be held on a regular basis, with a trophy provided by the gardening entrepreneur.

The 19-inch gold chalice which carries his name cost him 250 and bears the likeness of Mitchell at Ryder's insistence.

The pro was so affected by the gesture he said: "I owe golf a great deal, Sam. What you've done, putting me on top of the cup is more distinction than I could ever earn."

The inaugural Cup was held at Worcester Country Club, Massachusetts, on 3 and 4 June 1927.

The British team nearly failed to make it to the US due to lack of funds, but Ryder and the Stock Exchange Golf Society intervened to make up the shortfall.

Buried with his mashie

Mitchell was selected as British captain, but was forced to withdraw just before the tournament with appendicitis.

[ image: Prestigious: The Ryder Cup often brings out the best]
Prestigious: The Ryder Cup often brings out the best
He was replaced by Ted Ray, whose team consisted of Duncan, CA Whitcombe, Fred Robson, George Gadd, Aubrey Boomer, Archie Compston, Arthur Havers and Herbert Jolly.

Hagen captained and helped select the US team, which fielded Johnny Farrell, Leo Diegel, Bill Mehlhorn, Johnny Golden, Gene Sarazen, Al Waltrous, Joe Turnesa and named alternates Mike Brady and Al Espinosa.

The American team won convincingly by 9½ to 2½, but Ryder lived to see Britain reclaim the Cup twice on home soil, at Moortown in 1929 and Southport and Ainsdale in 1933.

He died in January 1936 at the age of 77 and was buried with his favourite five iron.

Ryder's legacy is the world's foremost tournament played for prestige rather than cash, although he famously only started out with the intention of organising "a small friendly lunch party" for the competitors.

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