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Samuel RyderThe Ryder Cup Matches date back to 1926 when the Royal and Ancient required regional qualifying prior to the 1926 British Open, forcing American competitors to make their transatlantic crossing earlier. While in England, a group of American golfers competed in an informal match against their British counterparts at Wentworth Country Club. They were soundly defeated 13.5 - 1.5.In the gallery of spectators at this match was an English seed merchant named Samuel Ryder. Following play, it was suggested that Ryder provide a trophy and encourage the matches on a regular basis. Ryder agreed and commissioned the design of the gold challis that bears his name and the likeness of his personal golf tutor, Abe Mitchell, on the top.


The inaugural Ryder Cup Matches were played at Worcester (Mass) Country Club in1927. The American team, captained by Walter Hagen, won that historic first match 9.5 - 2.5.Over the next sixty years the Ryder Cup Matches were virtually dominated by the Americans. One exception was in1969 when perhaps the most memorable moment in Ryder Cup history resulted in a 16-16 tie at Royal Birkdale. Jack Nicklaus conceded a four-foot putt on the final hole to Tony Jacklin to halve their match and gain a tie for the European team. That one gesture of sportsmanship probably best epitomizes what the Ryder Cup Matches are all about.


In 1979 the Ryder Cup Matches were expanded to allow players from the European continent to compete for what would now be called "Europe". Although the Matches became more competitive, the American team won by a good margin in both the 1979 and 1981Matches. Then, as if to signal what the future would hold for the Ryder Cup Matches, the Americans just barely hung on to win the 1983Matches 14.5 - 13.5.

Finally, in 1985, the European team prevailed at The Belfry, winning 16.5 - 11.5 and followed up with a 15-13 win at Muirfield Village, Captain Jack Nicklaus' home club. It was their first consecutive win ever and the first on American soil.


1927 American Ryder Cup TeamThus the stage was set for some of the most exciting and dramatic golf competitions ever. In 1989, the media coverage for the Ryder Cup Matches was intense, with the Matches being televised back to the U.S. live for the first time. After years of having always won the Ryder Cup, Americans had suddenly taken great interest in the outcome.

This time it was Christy O'Connor, the Irish veteran, who was the European hero. With his match against Fred Couples all square at the eighteenth, he hit a two-iron to within four feet of the flag. This so unnerved Couples that, needing only a nine-iron, he missed the green to the right. As Couples conceded the match to O'Connor, Americans watched as both men broke down from the pent-up emotion.

In 1991, the teams waged a memorable duel on the shores of South Carolina at Kiawah Island. At the end, Bernhard Langer missed as ix foot par putt at number eighteen to ensure Hale Irwin a halve for their match and a one point victory for the Americans 14.5 - 13.5.The Americans had reclaimed the Ryder Cup they lost in 1985.

America won another close match back at The Belfry in 1993 and seemed poised to return to their position of dominance heading to Oak Hill Country Club in Rochester, N.Y. for the 1995 Matches. After two days of competition the American team was in control with a two point lead when the European team mounted a comeback on the final day to win the 31st Ryder Cup Matches 14.5 - 13.5.

In 1997 the Matches were contested at Valderamma Golf Club in Soto Grande, Spain -the first time in Continental Europe. The Europeans built a substantial lead and held on as the Americans' final day rally fell short 14.5 - 13.5. The tide had swung again and now it was the European side that had won twice in succession.


1999 American Ryder Cup TeamIn 1999, at the Country Club in Brookline, Mass., the American team was reeling with a seemingly insurmountable10-6 deficit going into the final day singles. Only one man seemed to believe in miracles. "I'm going to leave y'all with one thought, and then I'm going to leave", said Ben Crenshaw, as he faced the assembled media. "I'm a big believer in fate. I have a good feeling about this. That's all I'm going to tell you".

Following an emotional team meeting on Saturday night, at which then Texas Governor George W. Bush read a passage recounting the defense of the Alamo, the American team stormed out on Sunday to make Crenshaw's words about fate and good feelings ring true.

Winning the first six matches, the Americans did exactly what was needed to win and completed the greatest comeback in Ryder Cup history by defeating the European team 14.5 -13.5. And what golf fan will ever forget Justin Leonards' 50 foot putt at number seventeen to ensure a half point in his match with Jose Maria Olazabel and an American victory.


1991 American Ryder Cup TeamThis past September's Matches at The Belfry only continued the tradition. Just when the American team appeared down and out Paul Azinger holed his bunker shot at eighteen to cut short the premature European celebration. Only when Paul McGinley holed an 11 foot par putt on 18 to halve Jim Furyk and ensure victory could the Europeans breathe a sigh of relief.

What can we expect in the 2006 Matches at the K Club in Ireland? You can be sure Captain Tom Lehman will have his American team fired up to win back the Cup after a dismal showing in 2004 at Oakland Hills.

Whatever the outcome, the Ryder Cup Matches seem to find a new script filled with excitement and drama.

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