Preston-born Samuel Ryder made his fortune from selling seeds via mail order for a penny a packet. He rose to become a prominent local figure, serving as a magistrate and mayor of his adopted home of St Albans.
By the age of 49 his health was failing and a friend suggested taking up golf to get some gentle exercise and fresh air. He was soon hooked, and joined his local club. Within two years, he was captain.
He became a considerable patron of the game, and was perturbed by the number of American pro-golfers who would arrive every year for the Open Championship, to routinely beat the local talent and swan back over the Atlantic with the Claret Jug. So he decided to set up a challenge match between the two nations’ golfers, in the hopes of stirring up the British a little.
And so on 4 June 1926, he funded a match at Wentworth between British and American professionals. The British won 13 ½ to 1 ½ .
He was so pleased with the way the competition turned out that he decided to formalise it, and had a £300 solid-gold trophy made. A year later, the first official ‘Ryder Cup’ match took place at the Worcester Country Club in Massachusetts.
The Ryder Cup is unusual in that the players receive no prize money. And for years, it operated at a loss, only breaking even in 1985. Since then, however, it has gone from strength to strength, making millions for the governing bodies of US and European golf – largely on the back of extremely lucrative TV deals.
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