An international contest at any game consists of the two elements—the play and the spirit. The play we can see for ourselves. The spirit is represented by the background of harmony, international brotherhood, all boys together and the rest of it which are put so admirably and at such unconscionable length by speakers at the celebratory dinner. If these qualities are missing, the finest exhibition of skill by the best players in the world cannot make up for their absence or render the contest itself worthwhile.
As to the play in the 1957 Ryder Cup match, it represented an honest triumph for the professionals of "Great Britain and Eire"—and let none of the concomitant unpleasantness be allowed to obscure the fact. All these men were ordinary club professionals who play in 10 or 12 tournaments a year, matching themselves against the flower of American professional golfers, who spend almost their entire working lives in tournament golf and outnumber them by about six to one. Fired by a patriotic spirit which seemed a little lacking among their more individualistic rivals, David Rees and his men slew the Goliath of American golf, and slew it good and proper.
For more than 20 years I have been reading—and, I confess, writing—articles on "What is wrong with British golf?" Now it remains for someone for the first time since we won the Walker Cup in 1938 to write "What is wrong with American golf?" A delicious thought, but none of my business. Nevertheless, the fact remains that after leading 3-1 in the foursomes, in which two pairs went around in 68, the Americans fell down like ninepins against a barrage not of 67s but of 71s.
Mere figures, however, do not tell the true story in match play. Most professionals hole most of the six-footers most of the time. The real hero is the man who holes them when the other man has just holed a 10-yarder. In every match the British showed the real moral courage without which you cannot win at golf, and hats should be lifted to them for it on both sides of the Atlantic.
As to the other aspects of this match which have been publicized in the United States, they would be better forgotten were it not for the fact that someone has now to decide whether the Anglo-American alliance can stand the strain of another Ryder Cup match being played at all. The present impression is that it can't—especially if the Russians are going to launch satellites to coincide with the singles.
There is much to be recorded against both sides, and not only against the players at that, but against "certain sections"—which always means the ones that the writer himself does not write for—of the British press. What is news? That Britain has won a glorious victory at golf, or that one tempestuous American has blown his top in the locker room, or that one British player dropped from the singles declares that he will never play under the same captain again?
One journalist whom I have not previously seen at an international match recorded: "For far too long British golf has cowered before the dollar-chasing success-inflated Americans, with their arrogance in victory and belief that British golfers are just a bunch of hard-up country cousins." For your information, gentlemen, I have seen every Anglo-American golf match since 1933, except one, and God knows I have seen enough winning Americans, but I have never seen one yet who by any conceivable stretch of the imagination could be described as "arrogant in victory."
Those who love golf, and particularly those of us who have the luck to know each other's two countries fairly well, have cause to be alarmed about this match. From the American point of view, the general attitude of Tommy Bolt was by any standard abominable. It is possible for any man to radiate hostility, argue with the referee, break his clubs in half and pass vitriolic comments on the spectators and his hosts in general; but if he feels that way, someone should persuade him to abstain from taking part in contests calculated to foster good will. Poor old Sam Ryder, whose daughter was present at the dinner, must have turned in his grave.
Again, while it was impolite of some of the American team not to turn up at the dinner—some of them, I remember, did the same thing after winning at Pinehurst in 1951—it was unforgivable of them not even to wait for the presentation of the cup and of the little souvenirs of the match that their opponents were waiting to give them. Incidentally, they missed by their absence a rather splendid moment when the captain of the club, reading at excessive length from a script prepared the previous evening, included the stout declaration, "We are not downhearted"—only to be corrected by an exuberant crowd shouting, "We won!"
From the British point of view, the PGA, having hawked the match round various municipalities and failed to gain the necessary financial support, accepted a truly generous and wholly benevolent offer from a Sheffield industrialist which involved playing the match from a clubhouse and from a headquarters calculated to give our visitors a far from fair impression of golf in Britain. The most congenial clubs over here often have most elementary clubhouses judged by American standards, and Lindrick is one of them. The American team would have liked the members, had they ever met them, but the latter retired, for lack of space, to a marquee of their own and were not allowed in at all. The huge golf bags now deemed necessary would not go into the ancient lockers. There were only two lavatories, and no showers. Bolt's remark at first sight ("This the clubhouse? Then where do they keep the buggies?") illustrates what I mean. Dammit, you can't help having a secret liking for the man!
Again, to be dumped down in the center of an industrial city in a commercial hotel characterized by that form of yellow strip lighting which causes everyone to look as though he had jaundice and by an inability to serve breakfast at the hour made necessary by an early start to the match half an hour's drive away was not calculated to give our guests and their charming wives an idyllic impression of the "home of golf." If they could not wait to get away at the end, there was one Englishman who in his heart did not blame them.
Two years remain before the Ryder Cup match is due to be played again and, clearly, some hard thinking must be done on both sides. I suggest the following points:
One, the match should be made truly international and not between two closed-shop professional associations with restrictions which could this year exclude such stars as Middlecoff and Demaret.
Two, each country should appoint through the Royal and Ancient and the United States Golf Association acting in concert with the two PGAs an independent selection committee, thus doing away with the point system which resulted in the remarkable conclusion that Sam Snead was not among the 10 best golfers in America.
Three, the selection committees from each of our two countries should include the first two qualifications required by the USGA in choosing Walker Cup teams. I quote: "The principles which guide the executive committee in selection of international teams are: 1) Merit as a competitive golfer, based upon records in tournaments of importance in recent years. 2) Sportsmanship and general ability to represent the United States in international relations.... Selection of team members is not influenced by age or geography."
Four, a Ryder Cup fund should be raised to insure complete independence for the new truly international contest and the playing of it in circumstances worthy of its new status.
In the meantime, let it never be forgotten that this year's match represented a very remarkable golfing achievement on the part of the British. The other aspects may be quietly remembered but no longer mentioned. Thus out of a little evil might come forth great good.
DEMONSTRATIVE PATRIOTISM of British fans (above) tried visitors' nerves, but Bobby shows usual placidity (below) in holding up traffic for U.S. Captain Jackie Burke.
TOMMY'S TERRIBLE TEMPER
Though Tommy (Thunder) Bolt's outbursts at Lindrick were not the first in his 11-year career as a professional golfer, and will not be the last, there seems to be no doubt that for once there was some measure of justification for his behavior. The notoriously partisan British galleries, realizing that for the first time in 24 years they were going to win the Ryder Cup, could not restrain their enthusiasm and cheered the American errors as lustily as they did the British successes. They howled like Milwaukee baseball fans. This is hard enough on the strongest nerves, and Bolt's were simply not equal to the task.
Tommy was born 38 years ago in Ha-worth, Okla. and didn't join the professional circuit until 1950 after several years as a fine amateur, part-time carpenter and driving range instructor. He brought to the tour a florid manner of dress and a very hot temper. Bolt, who has the nose and chin of Bob Hope and bears a strong facial resemblance to the golfing comedian, often wore black suede shoes with gold saddles, mustard-colored slacks, black sport shirt and sweater with yellow or white piping, stomped the fairways breaking course records or smashing golf clubs with equal aplomb. He established a firm reputation as a hothead and then complained about that, claiming it cost him valuable endorsements.
Bolt is actually an excellent and solid striker of the ball, but he has never reached the peaks so many close to the game expected he would. As one touring pro proclaimed recently, perhaps with some exaggeration, "A guy who hits the ball as well as Bolt should be winning 30 or 40 tournaments a year." There seems to be only one explanation for his failure to match the potential that is there: temperament.
Off the course Tommy is a generous and convivial companion, but under the intense strain of competition he will smash clubs one after the other and complain loudly and profanely about the gallery or even about his opponent. In the 1954 PGA championship he actually threatened to walk out right in the middle of his quarter-final match with Sam Snead.
This season Tommy's terrible temper seemed to have quieted down somewhat, and it was hoped that he was in for a spell of reformation. His backsliding came at an unfortunate time for American golf.