Friday, November 19, 2010

Walter Hagen - Ringmaster

Chapter 9       
                     "Walter Hagen is a good golfer, but he is also a master of the gentle art of making the English thoroughly dislike him."
                                                                     Topics of the Times, June 28, 1926

 Golf Illustrated, July 1926
         "The only blot on the day was Hagen's late arrival on the second day when he kept Mitchell waiting 25 minutes before he appeared on the first tee.  It is a very great pleasure for British golfers, and a stimulant to the game, that leading American professionals visit this country every year, but we feel that, in the general interest, they ought to observe starting times."

 NY Times, Edwin James
         "Not only do our political representatives scatter the earth with the posies of our good advice,  but now our golf ambassador Walter Hagen has told the English what is wrong with how they play golf: "They like sportsmanship better than winning," he said.  "British pros are misguided beings who play golf just for the fun of it. "

Bobby Jones and Walter Hagen
Hagen's departure, Waterloo Station       
"It aggravates me when, after I have beaten some Englishman, some one says that the  Englishman was a good sport.  Sure he was a good sport, but what's the use of coming over here to play among ourselves?  We can do that at home, but what he ought to be is a good golfer.  I don't believe American golfers will come back for a few years. "

        It was not a good time to needle the British about their golf games.   What followed was a low point in golf history.  The R&A abruptly set their 1927 Open date to conflict with the US Open date, a matter that had been informally agreed upon during a collegial meeting with USGA President William C. Fownes, Jr. only weeks before.  What followed was untidy and if left unresolved, would have been a shambles. (Note: It was Fownes, in 1921, who gathered an American team and sailed for England to play the inaugural Walker Cup match, because war-weary Britain was unable to accept its invitation to play in the USA.)
Sunday Observer, London
  "USGA Not Consulted After
Cooperation Had Been Promised."  
          "Ruling bodies are at loggerheads on what is a simple and trivial point.  Both desire to hold their respective championships at about the same time and neither is willing to give way.  It has all the appearance of a childish quarrel."

NY Times 

      "As America captured the British championship five times in the last six years, it is perhaps as well for the dignity of British golf that next year there are to be no Americans competing."

Sunday Observer (London) 
    "It's sweet of them to tell us this because the sentiments expressed are identical to those Hagen gave in his famous interview on departing last June.  While we shan't go into mourning for the absence of Hagen, we certainly do regret the possibility of a break in international rivalry.  It seems a pity that the labor of recent years should be in danger of being wrecked."

       The threat to Ryder Cup plans that this episode created may have alerted Sam to an uncertain future for his Cup and may be the reason why the following item was included  in the Deed of Trust: "If at any time the Committee of the PGA of GB pass a resolution saying that in their opinion no good purpose is served by continuing the said competitions  it will be lawful in their absolute discretion to award the Cup either alone or with other prizes by the said Association within Great Britain." 

      What on earth was Hagen thinking?  Perhaps the answer lay in the fact that, like Abe, Walter grew up near a golf course for toffs.  The farmhouse where he was born perched on a hillside overlooking Corbett's Glen, a setting so unusual that it may have affected young Walter's reason.  The front of his house faced the road while the back faced Allens Creek.  Both the road and the creek descended the hill to form a V at the bottom where  rapids shot under a small bridge.  The water then turned sharply parallel to the road so that the V became a Y as it swept over a ten foot falls in an explosion of sound.  Together, road and creek  proceeded sedately side by side through a spectacular stone archway on top of which, at intervals, the thundering traffic of the main line of the New York Central Railroad pounded overhead through Corbett's Glen.  At the opposite end of the long tunnel the road and the creek went their separate ways.  It was noisy and exciting and above all confusing, and clearly proves that if enough structure surrounds a problem, people will forget what the problem was in the first place.

Sanity Prevails

William Richardson, NY Times, January 5 1927 :
      "The clash between the USGA and R&A is over.  As a result of a compromise it is expected that plans for sending a British team of professionals to this side for a team match will proceed and that this year's open championship will have the greatest international flavor in its history." 

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Chapter 8: Stroke, Hole or Match

Stroke, Hole or Match 

      Stroke, hole or match are the three penalties assessed at Match Play under the Rules of Golf .  A simple infraction is a stroke penalty.  A more serious infraction is loss of hole and a really serious infraction is loss of match. For example, (paraphrasing Rule 6-3) if a player is late for his starting time by more than five minutes, he is disqualified.  The penalty for disqualification is loss of match.

The Match

       On June 18 and 19, 1926, shortly after the Ryder Cup Match at Wentworth, Golf Illustrated magazine sponsored a 72-hole match between Hagen and Mitchell, with £500 awarded to the winner, the biggest prize ever offered in England.  The venue was 36-holes at Wentworth the first day, and 36-holes at St. Georges Hill the second day.  It was show business, pitting the world's two best professional golfers at match play for a record amount of money.  At the end of the first day, Abe led by a comfortable (and boring) margin of 4 holes.  
        But the second day was a grabber, in spite of, or because of, the fact that Hagen was late on the tee by 25 minutes, an extraordinary delay even for him.  When he came into sight, officials reminded him that his match was in progress, but there was little else they could do.  In those days there was no rule about starting times, and Walter knew the Rules better than anyone, it was said.  (Bobby Jones reportedly sent Hagen a note the night before an exhibition match between them, saying that if he, Hagen, was not on the tee five minutes before the starting time, he, Jones, intended to get into his car and go.  Jones, an amateur, could do that, because he had no monetary obligation to do otherwise.)

        Abe lost four of the first six holes at St. George's Hill to bring the match all-square. Walter took the lead at the tenth.  But Abe squared the match again in the afternoon at the 15th, the only hole he took all day.  Bernard Darwin wrote, "I've just once seen Hagen look unhappy, and I may have been reading something into his face that I may have suffered myself in his case.  When the day had looked as good as won, suddenly he'd made mistakes and Abe squared the match with three holes to play.  It must have been a horrid moment for him, but he trampled that momentary weakness underfoot, for he won the next two holes and won the match."

       Hagen would have done better to lose, if we are to believe the bitter words in the newspapers.  It didn't help Abe that crowds came in droves at the end, a condition known to throw him off his game.  The best golfers in the world were there, including America's  amateurs, who were in England for the Walker Cup, British Amateur Championship (won by Bobby Jones the week before) and the Open (won by Bobby Jones the week after). 

       In his autobiography, The Walter Hagen Story, Hagen blamed his tardiness on this occasion specifically to his oft-repeated philosophy of life:  "I never hurried, there was no use worrying--and I always took time to smell the flowers along the way." 

 In boldface type a London paper declared,
   "According to the unwritten law of golf, Hagen should have been disqualified."

       My son the rock scientist believes that Hagen's behavior was unsportsmanlike and damaging to professionals golfers.  Samuel Ryder saw it as an opportunity to rectify an old notion held by the English and American public, that professionals were never quite the sportsmen that amateurs were. Mitchell, first as an amateur and then as a professional, was invariably perceived as a sportsman and gentleman.  The gold, emblematic figure is small reminder to professional golfers that golf is more than a game.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Chapter 7: Wentworth 1926

Another Tale from Ashdown Forest

   Did I tell you about Abe's Aunt Polly, one of several Mitchells to be called "professional" because she was a caddie over the age of 14,  and, to be frank, she was the best caddie at the Royal Ashdown Club?  It was Aunt Polly who caddied for the Reverend Williams on the day he foozled his ball from the ditch at the 7th directly into the fundament of a grazing outside agency with a full udder.  Once the startled animal recovered from her surprise, Abe's Aunt Polly retrieved, cleaned, and returned the ball to the Reverend Williams and by doing so assured herself a place in Ashdown Forest history, alongside Winnie the Pooh and Christopher Robin, who lived with their creator A.A. Milne, on the unkempt verges of the golf course.

The 38th Ryder Cup is History
      Alas, the Match from Wales is over.  Were you, as I was, cleverly lulled into boredom only to be astounded at the end? I started a pencil sketch of Seve (see previous blog) as "busy work" on Sunday and finished it off on Monday afternoon with a grand ta da, not unlike the Match itself.  It was like everybody won.  I had rarely noticed Hunter Mahan before Monday morning, but now I am inclined to do a sketch of him, too.  Hunter is a "sportsman," defined in Webster's as "fair, generous and a good loser."  Abe was a sportsman, and a good thing too, because he lost every Open he played in. 

The Ryder Cup Story continues: (click clippings to enlarge)   

      Abe, his wife Dora, and their young son Len moved to St. Albans in the the fall of 1925.  The following June 4-5, a Ryder Cup Match was played at Wentworth, not far from Windsor Castle.  Over the winter and early spring, Hagen had urged playing members of the PGA of America to play in the 1926 Open in Britain and at the same time play on an international team against British PGA members.  Team size varied day by day -- four, twelve, then eight, finally ten, half of whom had learned their golf in Britain.  Meanwhile, the British planned accordingly, but there seemed to be a lack of seriousness.
       On April 15, there was news from England that a cup was offered by an unknown donor.  A week later the donor was identified, I assume because Sam saw that his good name was worth more than the morality of  anonymous giving. 
       It's difficult to assess Hagen's haphazard manner of leadership, but beneath it all I think he understood Ryder's purpose: get the British lads to America.  I also think he had to be talked out of remuneration for the winning team.
      The 1926 Ryder Cup Match was played June 4-5, at Wentworth. The format was that used in amateur matches, such as the Walker Cup, first played in April 1921, in England.  The final score at Wentworth was Great Britain 13½, United States 1½. 
When play ended the second day,  the scattered players were brought in off the course so that Alanson Houghton, American Ambassador to the Court of St. James, could make a speech and give out medals.  But there was no cup, it was said. Yet Darwin referred to a cup donated by Ryder (see in previous blog), and reporters wrote that the British hoped  to "retain" the cup at the first Ryder Cup Match in Worcester in 1927.  The British still think Wentworth should be counted.  And I don't know what to think.
       I do know that it doesn't matter to this story.  It's what happened two weeks later that matters.  We'll get to that the next time.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Chapter 6: Get the Lads to America

For  Seve    An Eye-witness Account
                  Oak Hill, 1995, Sunday Singles Match

      Tom Lehman was 2-up on Seve Ballesteros on the 12th hole.  Their balls were on the putting green, and I had a front
row seat in the grass alongside.  Lehman's ball was away and he putted first.  His ball stopped a foot from the hole.  While Seve and his caddie studied Seve's putt, Tom strode to his ball, looked at it, looked at Seve, looked at the gallery, and sort of shrugged.  Seve, still lining up his putt, seemed oblivious.  Tom, then, putted his ball into the hole as I, and the gallery around me, softly gasped.  In all my years of playing, watching and officiating I had never seen anyone do that before -- play out of turn like that in match play, when the ball was so close to the hole.  A conceded putt is picked up or knocked away. [In match play, when an opponent plays out of turn there is no penalty, but he may be asked to re-play the stroke.  Rule 10-1c] 

       Seve, Tom, and their referee conferred and Tom replaced his ball and marked it in a deliberate fashion, whereupon the gallery booed Seve, thinking he had pulled a gamesmanship ploy on Tom, who did nothing to quiet them.
      The referee later diffused the noisy gallery by explaining that Seve had not conceded Tom's putt because Tom's ball was his aiming point.  Had Seve conceded the putt, Tom would have picked up his ball and there would have been no marking process, no marker for Seve to aim for. 
      When Seve putted and missed, some of us groaned but generally the gallery thought Seve got what he deserved.  Tom not only won the match three holes later, he won, to my mind, the gamesmanship award that day without getting caught.  Upon reflection, I can imagine that Seve didn't mind being accused in the headlines the next day -- not this time anyway.
      As Seve played his final stroke in his very last Ryder Cup Match at the 15th green, I thought I detected a tear in his caddie's eye. 

 Origins of the Ryder Cup     
      Let's review: In 1920, American Walter Hagen invented the "unnattached" pro.  After he won the US Open, he played in the Open in England where he befriended the reigning  British champions Abe Mitchell and George Duncan.  Through his connections with Rodman Wanamaker, Hagen arranged exhibition tours in America for Mitchell and Duncan from 1921 - 1924.  The British pair found that the best place to be from, when you are in America, was England.  When they returned home to their jobs each year, they spread the word about American enthusiasm.  
Verulam Golf Course
        Meanwhile, 65 year old Sam Ryder, the rich Englishman with a serious addiction to golf, was concerned that the oppressive conditions under which English professionals labored were adversely affecting their competitive edge.  So, in July 1923, Sam did something for golf that was extraordinarily complicated and generous.  He, in concert with his brother James (to whom he gave most of the credit), invited British pros to compete in the Heath and Heather at Verulam Golf Club course (pictured above with the St. Albans Abbey in the distance) expenses paid, plus £5 to each entrant, to compete for prize money totaling £500.  The £5  was "appearance" money, not so the pros would appear, but so that they could afford to appear.  To compare prices, in 1925, Duncan's  salary as pro at Wentworth was £100 annually.   
         Mitchell, Duncan, Vardon, Taylor and Braid, and a full field of British golf professionals came to the Ryders' Heath and Heather, the name of James' herbal seed company, a subsidiary of Ryder and Son.  A movie was made of the famous swings, and at the end, Mrs. James Ryder, a handsome woman of Wagnerian proportions, awarded the prizes.  (For years I had thought she was Sam's wife Helen.)  The movie was shown at the Odeon for a week.
       I can imagine that  the British major champions, who had been to the USA, told Sam about the  benefits of American exposure. "Get the lads to America," they would have said, so that they can compete in the US Open  One way to do it was to make an international match for Professionals, like George Herbert Walker (as in Walker Cup) had done for the amateurs in 1920.  Time the Match to fit comfortably with the US Open
      A year later Sam went into action by asking Abe Mitchell, whose contract with North Foreland was about to expire,to come with his wife and son to live in St. Albans and, for £750 plus £250 expenses, do nothing but play golf.  It's hard to believe, but Abe's wife Dora told Hertfordshire Country Magazine that Abe hesitated. Sam had to ask him a second time before he accepted.

      Bernard Darwin had this to say about this somewhat bizarre situation:

"The American professional can, in some cases, afford to be unattached and makes a great deal of money in that way.  We have here only one professional who can be called "unattached" in that sense.  This is Abe Mitchell, who has an engagement as private playing professional with Mr. Ryder, a gentleman who gave the cup played for this year in an International match between the American and British professionals."
       The above quote, published in the January 15, 1927, issue of Literary Digest, is doubly clarifying to the careful reader. Not only is Darwin saying exactly what Ryder did -- that is, "unattach" Mitchell, he also proved what I had come to believe: there was a cup at that Ryder Cup Match at Wentworth in 1926.  The words "this year" in the above quote refers to 1926.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Chapter 5: Saturday Evening Post

      After weeks of searching I have found the letter that started this BLOG. So I interrupt our storyline with this Saturday Evening Post.   It is Saturday, it is Evening and I am determined to Post.
     In 1913,  Harold Hilton, Britain's highest ranked amateur golfer, wrote a letter to the editor of Golf Illustrated an abstract of which you will find below.  Hilton held almost all titles including the Open, and he was the only English amateur to win our US Amateur Championship.

October 10, 1913
       Now that Abe Mitchell has severed his connection with amateur golf we wish him the very best of luck.  We know him to be a fine golfer, a real good fellow, modest and unassuming and a sportsman. But while wishing him this full measure of fortune, we feel regret that on the eve of his departure from amateur golf he should have seen fit to unburden his soul regarding the disadvantages under which he contends he laboured as an artisan golfer in the amateur ranks.
      Even if there were justification for his complaints, there are some things better left unsaid and he would have been well advised had he refrained from these eleventh hour revelations.  We do not think that what he contends is altogether correct.  Mitchell says that, in the light of his own experience, the artisan golfer is not wanted in amateur golf.  We disagree, and to support our views, we have Mitchell's own statement that he was welcomed at his first championship -- Hoylake, 1910. We can vouch that the attitude of the members of the Royal Liverpool Club differs not one tittle from that of any other of the big clubs in the country.  Mitchell was very well liked at Hoylake that year, as he deserved to be.  As far as his personality is concerned, he is always popular and always has been.
      In 1911, at Prestwick, Mitchell says there was a change in his reception.  The atmosphere was charged with hostility.  We have no doubt that any lack of enthusiasm would not have been due to a loss of personal popularity, but simply prompted by the feeling that Mitchell was gravitating toward the professional ranks.  To be unequivocal, it was freely stated that could Mitchell win the Championship he would forthwith turn professional.  There was a strong feeling that it was hardly playing the game to utilize the chief honour in professional golf as a stepping stone to securing a good paid position.
      At the Championship at Westward Ho!, in 1912, rumours appeared in the press without denial from which the golfing world drew its own conclusions. Playing against John Ball in the finals, Mitchell must have had the feeling that the sympathies of the spectators were not with him, a feeling that was openly shown.  This was due to a coterie of Mitchell supporters who exhibited a spirit of class animosity, disorderly and unpleasant as to eventually bring the matter into the police courts. It could not increase  the sympathy for the artisan golfer.  But never for a moment was it suggested that Mitchell was responbible for these outbursts.  On the contrary Mitchell must have found it distasteful.
      Coming to the Championship at St. Andrews this year Mitchell entered for the event after he openly avowed his intention of becoming a professional.  He could hardly expect to be received in the same spirit as if he had entered with no such intention in mind. When he had the misfortune to meet a player whom the crowd at St. Andrews simply idolize, he would assuredly have found the sympathy of spectators with his opponent.

One cannot get away from the fact that Mitchell may unwittingly brought his troubles on himself by failing to recognize that the golfing world strongly disapproves of anything that may tend to make less clear than the distinction between an amateur and a paid player.  That any lack of sympathy was due simply to his being an artisan player, we cannot for a moment believe.  The true artisan amateur has always been welcome at championship meetings.
                                                                                                        H.H. Hilton

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Chapter 4: Samuel Ryder, Amateur Golfer, Donor of the Ryder Cup

Samuel Ryder, 1857-1934

Don't Believe Everything You Read
      Until recently some sportswriters mocked the size of the Ryder Cup, while others mock the size of the donor.  These small aspersions gave me the uneasy feeling that Samuel Ryder was just another rich man tagging along after elite professional golfers for the fun of it.  Dick Taylor, for example, in Links Magazine, wrote that Sam Ryder was a "camp follower" and implied that he was short in stature.  George Kimball of the Boston Herald wrote that Ryder “positively idolized professionals, reveled in their company.” Geoff Russell wrote in Golf World, September 1993, “The Ryder Cup, signified by a dinky gold trophy...” Bill Elliott called him “wee Sam.” And, in a Ryder Cup Program, Michael Williams named him a “small Mancunian.”  It’s true that Sam once lived near Manchester, but he was not small, unless he was standing next to Jim Barnes.  Everyone was small standing next to Jim Barnes.  And invariably it was Sam alone, who had his hat removed for group pictures, making him shockingly short compared to the others.
     Where did this aura of "patronizing the patron" come from?  Writers know that Ryder wasn't a camp follower.  I know it too, but today's golf heroes overwhelm our memory of the past, and if we can't imagine that it was ever otherwise, we may miss that Ryder was a truly good man .  
       The Sam Ryder I came to respect was very different from what I thought I was going to get. He was smart, funny, loving, but best of all, it was natural to him to walk in the other man's shoes.  Sam worked everything through before he did it.  Golf, for example. He practiced in his own garden for a year before he played the game in public.  After he joined Verulam Golf Club in St. Albans he was assigned a 6 handicap by his peers at the annual handicap meeting. (Verulam Golf Club records show the accuracy of Ryder's "short game" in this syntactically challenging string of words: 

       "Birtwistle complained that something should be done against Ryder ... he foozles his tee shot into serious trouble and does a 3 at a stroke hole." )
Sam had no sons. "Ryder" is his father.
       Until I read it in a letter to his future wife Helen Mary Barnard, dated 1887, I never knew that Ryder was in the catalogue business with his father in Manchester long before he moved to St. Albans and made his fortune.  He married Helen in 1888, and in 1895, they moved to St. Albans, a small city just north of London, noted for its post office and three railway stations -- the  cheapest and most efficient distribution center in the world.  Seeds were expensive only because they cost so much to distribute.  But to mail them in small packets cost practically nothing.  A poor man could buy. Ryder's penny seed packets were yet another way for Sam Ryder (and his wife, I'm sure) to square up the margins of justice. 

Amateurs and Professionals

      What’s the difference and what difference does it make?

Who is what, and who isn’t?
       Was Samuel Ryder a professional golfer because he helped professionals? In fact, Sam Ryder was an amateur.  Bobby Jones? I guess everyone knows that Jones was an amateur who won everything but all-professional events. To remain an amateur, a golfer must not receive compensation of any sort for golf- related activities.  When Jones received remuneration for golf instruction movies made in Hollywood in the early 1930s. Because he did not want to turn professional, he chose to quit competitive golf altogether, rather than put the USGA (golf's head office) on the spot.  He never competed officially again. Think about this: the first high-ranking American amateur to turn professional was Roland R. Mackensie, in 1934, Mackensie had been a member of three Walker Cup teams, 1926, '28 and '30, a fact told to me by his namesake at a USGA reception in 1999. 
       Bill Murray?  What is he?  We see him playing in a pro-ams at Pebble Beach.  Is he a pro, or an am?  It's a way of life so unbalanced that it might tip over, let us hope without hurting the game, because, as I said earlier, "Golf is the only game God is interested in," besides cricket, of course.  In a radio message broadcast from England to America in 1931 when the third Ryder Cup Match was played at Scioto Country Club in Columbus, Ohio, Samuel Ryder said,

                    I look upon the Royal and Ancient game as being a powerful moral force that influences the best things in humanity.

       Sam admired all golfers who played well, whether amateur or professional. But he did like to see the British win, and they were winning less and less in the 1920s. He set out to find the reason and ended up with an appropriate solution.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Chapter 3: Golf, Golf, Golf

 George H. Underwood, Artisan Golf and Ashdown Forest
By Shirley Dusinberre Durham, October 2010
G. H. Underwood and I at Verulam

     When the war was over and the British soldiers had left their practice battleground on Royal Ashdown fairways, golf resumed for the Toffs and the Cantelupe. Royal Ashdown members played at the shank of the day, while the Artisans enjoyed the rest of the long summer's light.  Sometimes the two clubs, Cantelupe and Royal Ashdown, competed in a friendly, but serious, rivalry.  My English friend George Underwood, twice Captain of the Cantelupe Golf Club, told me that because the Artisans were not permitted to enjoy the inside of the clubhouse, a serving window to the golf course was built off  the men's bar, so that foursomes could drink together during their matches.  He believed it to be the only window of its kind in England.
      Underwood is Abe Mitchell's nephew, son of  Abe's sister Mabel Seymour. George, who once "played off single figures" (in handicap-speak), holds the painful memory of losing several golf clubs from a small set made for him by his Uncle Abe in 1928.  In WWII, George served in the Royal Navy. He was aboard when HMS Dido was torpedoed off the island of Crete. Men were lost but the damaged ship made the long voyage to the Brooklyn Navy Yard for repairs, giving the young Navy man a summer in New York City he will never forget.  George shared everything with me, including something I've just decided not to share with you, although you may find it in my book.

      There is no question that until the early 1920s, British professionals were the best golfers anywhere. Vardon, Taylor and Braid, et al. traveled the world, winning their Opens as well as ours.  But that changed after American-born Walter Hagen popularized an American presence in the Open by winning it in 1922, 1924, 1928 and 1929.
      Hagen never played as an amateur.  He permanently lost his amateur status when he caddied at age fourteen. He won the US Open in 1914 and 1919, while he was the pro at the Country Club of Rochester.  He never smoked or drank until he was 25, and after that, it was more an act than an actuality.  He left Rochester to become pro at the new Oakland Hills Club in Detroit, where he and his new wife enjoyed clubhouse privileges.
       Then, abruptly, Walter decided to work for himself. He hired a business agent and a press secretary, quit Oakland Hills and reinvented golf, becoming the first pro to successfully earn his living by playing competitive golf and exhibitions.  After he won the 1919 US Open, he accepted his first invitation to play abroad, in the 1920 Open, at Deal, on the south coast of England. The English social order and sporting scene would never be the same. The Ryder Cup Story would begin.
        Hagen, George Duncan and Abe Mitchell made headlines at that 1920 Open -- Hagen, because he changed his shoes in a chauffeured Austin-Daimler and scored so badly, Mitchell, (British Match Play Champion), because he led the field by thirteen strokes at one point, and Duncan, because he won.  The following week Hagen and his two new friends, Mitchell and Duncan, went off to the French Open in Paris, which Hagen won and Mitchell and Duncan were second and third.  I surmise it was about then that Hagen talked them into touring the United States, if Hagen could find them a sponsor, perhaps merchandizer Rodman Wanamaker, who had orchestrated the founding of the PGA of America in 1916.

       Until I received Gene Sarazen's letter (right), I had no idea that Abe Mitchell had ever set foot in the United States before the 1931 Ryder Cup in Ohio. The letter reshaped my view about the origins of the Ryder Cup. I went to the library to see if our newspapers ever wrote about the Mitchell and Duncan tours.     
         The tidbit in Sarazen's letter was, of course, that Hagen, as PGA champion in 1921, did not defend his title. In 1922, he skipped the PGA Championship (match play until 1957), the event for which he would become famous for winning the most of -- 1921, '24-'27, which adds up to five times.  Hagen chose instead to make more money in less time by playing with his two British pals, Abe and George, in the two-day Western New York Open Championship in Buffalo.
        Duncan's and Mitchell's success in America, in conjunction with Hagen's showmanship, surely contributed to a future for international competition. The British pros would take the message home, where it would become a mission to which Sam Ryder would put his hand.