By Shirley Dusinberre Durham, October 2010
|G. H. Underwood and I at Verulam|
THE RYDER CUP EVOLVESThere 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.