Friday, 21 December 2012

Those Ryder Cup Memories and Glory. August and September in the review of the year


The Clash of Titans will be held at Medinah from September 28th – 30th.  On the U.S. Ryder Cup team the qualifiers so far are Tiger Woods, Bubba Watson, Jason Dufner, Keegan Bradley, Webb Simpson, Zach Johnson, Matt Kuchar and Phil Mickelson, who is the last automatic choice and desperately wants to qualify rather than be picked. Hot on their heels will be contenders like Hunter Mahan, Rickie Fowler and Jim Furyk, hoping to receive a phone call from captain Davis Love III.  
Jose Maria Olazabal must also be burning the midnight oil. Contenders for his team have been going from hero to zero and back all season.    The results of the USPGA will have helped with six European players finishing in the top seven places.  Both captains will need to make some inspired choices. 
Olazabal will have four Vice Captains to help him during the championship.  “You need extra eyes to follow players in practice rounds and gather information on how they are shaping up.”  he told interviewers.  “It is also important to have someone watching every match because you have to hand in your pairings for afternoon matches while the players are still out on the course.” 
FRED COUPLES, 52, commented on winning the 2012 Senior British Open at Turnberry last month:  “This means I get to play in next year’s Open at Muirfield, which is great!”   The result is particularly gratifying for Couples because the Open eluded him, although he finished nine times in the top ten, and four times in the top five. Sounds like he still hasn’t given up hope.

PETER ALLISS’S father Percy, one of the finest golfers of his generation who played in several Ryder Cups, had a great many pals in the business.  Young Peter would listen wide-eyed when Open champions like Alf Perry (1935) and Reg Whitcombe (1938) popped in to have a chat and a cuppa with his Dad.   
“Open winners all become superstars now, but the champions of 70 years ago were club pros,” remembers Peter,  “and although it was nice to win the Open, their club members didn't really care that much. They'd say, 'Well done, Reggie, you won the championship, well done. Bloody awful weather down at Sandwich, wasn't it? Now then, when can you fix my wife up with a lesson?  Have you put those new studs in my shoes yet?  I could do with a new umbrella, anything nice in the shop?  That's why the final 36 holes of the Open were played on a Friday, so the new Open Champion could be back behind the counter of his pro shop on the Saturday morning when the members turned up to play."
THE R & A has warned the BBC that coverage Of the Open could be handed to a rival if it continues to cut live coverage of golf.  The BEEB holds the rights to show the British Open until 2016, but from next year will screen just six days of men’s golf live a year, a quarter of it’s previous screening time.  They have now lost the rights to screen the PGA at Wentworth and the Scottish Open.  The Ryder Cup is currently shown live exclusively on Sky.  Six million viewers watched Darren Clarke lift the Claret Jug last year, so it’s hardly a minority sport.

ERNIE ELS wasn’t the only one to cash in on the Open.  A reckless punter in America put $70 on Ernie to win the Open at 469-to-1  when Adam Scott had a four-shot lead with four holes to play.  When Scott came unglued the gambler, who placed the wager through a site that allows betting during the round, cashed in and walked away with a tidy $32,830.


IF YOU have never heard of Came Down Golf Club, then you won’t be aware that this is where the Ryder Cup was first conceived.   Set high on the Ridgeway above the County town of Dorchester, often buffeted  by sea breezes, the club is steeped in history, particularly relating  to Samuel Ryder and the trophy that bears his name.

Records show that there was a nine hole course on the site in 1896, though it was believed golf had been played there much earlier. The mayor of Weymouth, inspired by the success of golf courses around Bournemouth, sought to establish an 18 hole course in his own area.  Renowned golfer and course architect J.H. Taylor was 
appointed to the task, and he decided to extend the course up on the downs.

The ‘Weymouth Dorchester and County Golf Club,’ as it was first known,  opened to a fanfare in 1906, with an exhibition match between Taylor and another five times Open Champion: James Braid.   In 1910 the club appointed Earnest Whitcombe as club professional, a very significant move, for shortly afterwards his mother Bessie was appointed Club Stewardess, and she brought along her other two sons Charles and Reginald.  They stayed for seventeen glorious years.

All three brothers were brilliant golfers, a glance through the record books will reveal their achievements, particularly in national tournaments.    They put the club on the map, and when Samuel Ryder, a Hertfordshire seed merchant and keen golfer who had made his fortune selling Penny Packet seeds, came to Dorset on holiday he  played at the course with Earnest Whitcombe.

 Ryder became a country member, and while playing one day asked Earnest if the brothers ever played in international tournaments.  Earnest told him they could rarely afford the unpaid time or travel costs.  “The Americans come over backed by wealthy supporters,” he said, “not like the poor Britisher.”  Ryder decided to try to remedy the situation by setting up a contest between Britain and America, and  consulted his friend and personal golf tutor Abe Mitchell (whose photograph provided the image for the statue atop the Ryder Cup. )   He purchased a gold cup from Mappin and Webb, and the rest is history.

In 1924 the club was re-named Came Down Golf Club, and re-designed by Harry Colt.   The fame of the brothers attracted top players.   Earnest won the News of the World Matchplay, and Reg  won the British Open  at Royal St. Georges in 1938.   Charles won the British PGA Matchplay  twice.  All three brothers played in the 1935 Ryder Cup, Charles took part in six, from 1927 to 1937, and he captained the team four times.
When the Ryder Cup comes around, it’s worth remembering Came Down golf club,  one of the ‘Hidden Gems’ of Dorset, and  the three brothers who  played here all those years ago. (Not to mention a certain seed merchant from Hertfordshire.)
JAVIER Ballesteros, son of the late great Seve, won the amateur Madrid Open on 16th September.  The 22-year-old  dedicated the win to his father, who died in May 2011 at the age of 54.      Javier finished the three-round tournament at 6 under to win by four strokes.  His Dad would have been proud of him.
DURING THE  2002 Ryder cup at the Belfry the TV cameras zoomed in on the Barbie doll - like wives and girlfriends of the American players, then closed in on the players marking their golfballs.

Peter Alliss explained to viewers unfamiliar with golf ritual that the players did this so they could tell them apart, then added:  “I expect they’ll have to start doing something similar with their ladies.”   (Nervous twitches from the U.S. Network.)
Wishing the European  team the best of luck.