The Ryder Cup’s rich history, spanning 90 years and 41 competitions, dates back to 1921 when Walter Hagen and GOLF Magazine publisher James Harnett proposed the event. The first “casual” match was in Gleneagle, Scotland, and ended with the British scoring a 9-3 victory over the Americans.
An unofficial match occurred when the R&A decreed regional qualifying rounds before the 1926 Open Championship, forcing overseas competitors to make their trans-Atlantic trek earlier. Due to a general transportation strike, some members of the American contingent could not arrive on time. Therefore, an unofficial match was staged against the British professionals at Wentworth.
Among those watching the British defeat the American visitors was Samuel Ryder, an English entrepreneur who made his fortune selling penny seed packets. Before the matches in Wentworth, Ryder had engaged British star Abe Mitchell as host professional at his club. Mitchell beat English-born and reigning U.S. Open Champion Jim Barnes in the Singles, and then teamed with George Duncan in the Foursomes to beat Hagen and Barnes.
When Mitchell and Duncan were having tea with Hagen and Emmett French after the matches, Duncan suggested to Ryder that the matches should be established on a regular basis. This led the nurseryman to commission the casting of the beautiful gold trophy. Ryder agreed to underwrite the travel expenses of Mitchell’s first challenge team in 1927 for the formal series opening in Worcester, Mass. The United States team defeated the team from Great Britain in that historic first match, 9.5 to 2.5.