Thursday, September 2, 2010

Chapter 1: The Ryder Cup Story

Footnotes and Anecdotes
by Shirley Dusinberre Durham, Author and Illustrator 
 Mr. Ryder's Trophy, 2002 Sleeping Bear Press

      In the weeks before the 38th Ryder Cup (October 1 - 3) -- while you are in a state of idle curiosity -- I'd like to share with you my unorthodox view of golf history, gleaned from seven years of writing Mr. Ryder's Trophy. It's my purpose to correct some notions about golf and the Ryder Cup, let off steam, and hand out gratuitous information.  At the same time I'd sincerely like corrections.

 Ryder Cup
 Made in Sheffield, England, 1926
 Mappin and Webb, Crown Jewellers

The hallmarks confirm the following:

M&W     The makers mark of Mappin and Webb

Round Rose    The mark of the Sheffield Assay Office

 9  and 375  The mark indicating that the Cup is made of 9ct Gold 

Letter I    The Cup was made in 1926

The Trophy - a closer look

The Hallmarks

     In August 2000, Edward Asprey of Crown Jewellers Asprey and Garrard, London, sent me the above explanation of the hallmarks on the Ryder Cup.  The PGA's Susan Martin had arranged for the hallmarks to be photographed for me at PGA headquarters in Palm Beach Gardens, FL, where the Trophy was locked in a display case, by virtue of our win at Brookline.  Asprey explained that his firm, which had bought Mappin and Webb in 1989 (and sold it in ten years later), had made a full-sized replica of the Cup in 1993 for the safety of the original on informal occasions.

      I asked Mr. Asprey by phone how much the Cup would cost today. He ventured that if Samuel Ryder bought such a cup off the shelf, in 1926 or 1927, for £250, it might now cost in the range of £20,000 to £30,000.

      The Ryder Cup Trophy resembles in style the US Amateur Championship's Havemeyer Trophy, the one that was destroyed in a fire at the East Lake clubhouse, where Bobby Jones had stashed it on a book shelf after his win in 1925.  The replacement Havemeyer Trophy is a big silver thing, several feet tall. USGA historian Rand Jerris offered this for context:  the Walker Cup (the Amateur equivalent of the Ryder Cup) is an even bigger silver thing, insured for $1,500, in 1921.  (Sorting out the £ and the $ in fluctuating markets is not something I should even attempt, but I'm leading to something.)

Words on the Cup

       Samuel Ryder did not use philanthropy to promote his business, if the words on the Ryder Cup an indication of his purpose.  I called the Belfry (European PGA Headquarters) to reaffirm that this was right, to be sure that the engraving on the Cup did not include the words "Ryder & Son Ltd."  the name of Ryder's successful seed company. 

      A pleasant receptionist at the Belfry hesitated when I asked for the exact words on the trophy.  "Yes, well...," she said, them paused, and made an amusing sound,   "The Trophy is here at my feet, under my desk.  It will take only a moment to open the box and have a look.  Have you a pencil?"
Presented by Samuel Ryder EsqJP. of St. Albans to the Professional Golfers' Association of Great Britain May 1927

This inscription told me two things about Sam:
        1) He lent his good name to help the men who played his game, not to advertise his business.
        2) Of the many fine things Ryder did in his life, JP, Justice of the Peace, suited him and he liked it best.  He was good at justice and justifying, squaring things so that everyone got a fair shake.
        3) Sam may have philosophically disagreed with his brother James.  The two worked together for professional golf initially and called their tournaments Heath & Heather, after a the subsidiary of Ryder & Son, of which James was  in charge.  It was a commercialization to which Sam may have objected, and may have been the reason James seemed to play no role in the Ryder Cup Matches.

       Which makes me wonder: why would some sportswriters belittle this very nice man and his Cup?

         In the hype surrounding the 38th Ryder Cup Match in Wales, October 1-3, you may hear stories about the origins of the Ryder Cup that are misleading and inadequate.  Rarely is it mentioned that the Ryder Cup derives from a social problem between professional and amateur golfers in England 100 years ago. Class distinction was so fierce that it harmed the development of anyone of the working class who aspired to something better, especially working class golfers, who -- strange as it may seem today -- aspired to remain amateurs. Bernard Darwin (my favorite keen observer) describes the life of professional golfers of the late 19th century, in Vanity Fair (January 15, 1927):

            "Such a life bred a reckless type of man who took little care for the morrow -- often a very pleasant creature, alas with a taste for whisky.  In the summer they earned a certain amount of money; in the winter, they got along the best they could.  Gradually, more courses sprang up in England and this meant more permanent jobs for those who cared to cross the border.  The professional who took such a job was often a jack-of-all trades, for he was greenkeeper, as well as professional and club-maker, and could not disdain to push a mowing-machine or pull a roller.  Still, he had an improved status, if only because clubs exacted from a permanent servant a standard of conduct not expected from a casual ally in a foursome."                

"Golf is the only game that God is interested in."
Shirley Dusinberre Durham, 2002
"Please don't forget that God is also interested in Cricket, since he invented it."
John Cleese, 2004 (e-mail)

1 comment:

  1. Shirley - my highest compliment to you - a person of strong moral conviction and never afraid to stir up a bit of well-earned articulate controversy! Cheers to you, again!!!!! Wen