Ryder Cup Revealed

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The story of the Ryder Cup is well known.

Or is it? Author Ross Biddiscombe’s excellent new book – ‘Ryder Cup Revealed’ – lifts the lid on the event and uncovers many tales of intrigue and in-fighting which adds extra flavour to this week’s latest instalment of golf’s greatest rivalry.

On occasion Biddiscombe fleshes out stories which have gone into Ryder Cup folklore, tales we know inside-out but love to be reacquainted with, such as the fact that Europe’s renaissance was led by Tony Jacklin and Severiano Ballesteros, who shared a feeling which went way beyond the three-day match.

Both had taken their careers to America and discovered a welcome that was less than effusive. Jacklin is quoted saying: “Gardner Dickinson and Bob Goalby resented me on the PGA Tour. They thought I was taking money out of their pockets. Nicklaus and Palmer were different. Their attitude was that if you think you can beat me, come and try.”

Years later Ballesteros had a similar experience and with Jacklin’s prompting he turned his frustration into Ryder Cup success – it was the edge which transformed him from a fine golfer in a big match into a driven man, desperate to claim victory.

But the book’s great strength is going beyond what we already know. Biddiscombe points out that chippiness has always typified the event – and on both sides.

The great Ben Hogan threw himself into it, every bit as much as Ballesteros: as captain in Houston in 1967 he listened to the GB&I captain politely introduce his team and then welcomed his team with the words: “Ladies and gentlemen, the United States Ryder Cup team, the finest golfers in the world.”

Hogan knew exactly what he was doing and Peter Allis noted: “The British were ten down before a ball had been hit.”

Hogan could respond too. Years before, when again captain in 1949, he was still bridling from a British insinuation that American equipment had been illegal in 1947. So on the even of the match at Ganton Hogan flipped the accusation – and he was proved correct, with the British and Irish wedges requiring last minute alterations.

It’s one of many examples Biddiscombe uncovers which reminds you that many of the Ryder Cup’s themes have always existed.

Take sponsorship money, which the match has always been in hock to. In the early years (indeed right up until the 1980s) the match desperately required the cash to even exist. Nowadays it is recognised as the biggest cash cow available to the European Tour and, perhaps to a lesser degree, the Americans too.

‘Ryder Cup Revealed’ is a bright and breezy read, which flies through the years, neatly observing the “Three Ages of the Ryder Cup” (the pre-Second World War birth of the match, the post-Second-World War period of dominance by the Americans, the post-1983 emergence of Europe).

It marks the difficulties of starting and maintaining the match; the money, business and political machinations which take place; the on- and off-course rivalries; and it also plays soothsayer with a bit of guesswork about the future (paying particular heed to the prospects for the match if Asia becomes as strong in the men’s game as it is in the ladies).

The book is also full of remarkable details: the fact the ABC television in the States offered to return $1million to *not* broadcast the 1983 match, the fact that a Sri Lankan golf club helped fund the GB&I team’s passage to America for the first event and the ludicrous fact that Calvin Peete was unable to play in 1981 because he hadn’t passed his high school diploma.

This week Gleneagles will witness another chapter in the history of the Ryder Cup and Biddiscombe’s book is a really fine companion to the drama that will unfold.

Fore more information and to purchase the book go to the website.

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