1921 Gleneagles, Scotland

On 27th September 1920, Golf Illustrated wrote a letter to the Professional Golfers' Association of America with a suggestion that a team of 12 to 20 American professionals be chosen to play in the 1921 British Open. In those days, no American golfer had won the British Open and so the idea was the brainchild of James D. Harnett, who worked for the magazine. The PGA of America agreed and the idea was announced in the November 1920 issue with the announcement of the British Open Championship Fund.

A team of 12 would be chosen and would sail in time to play a warm-up tournament at Gleneagles (the Glasgow Herald 1000 Guinea Tournament) prior to the British Open at St. Andrews which was due to take place two weeks later. The team of 12 was chosen by PGA President George Sargent and PGA Secretary Alec Pirie, with the assistance of USGA Vice-President Robert Gardner. A team of 11 (Harry Hampton deciding at the last minute that he could not travel) sailed from New York on the RMS Aquitania on the 24th May 1921 together with James Harnett,

The 12-a-side International Match between America and Great Britain professionals was reported in The Times on May 17th, with James Douglas Edgar (who was already in Britain) being reported as the probable 12th player. The match was to be played at Gleneagles on Monday 6th June, the day before the start of the 1000 Guinea Tournament. With Jim Barnes indisposed, the match eventually became a 10-a-side contest and consisted of 5 foursomes in the morning and 10 singles in the afternoon, played on the King's Course. The match was won by Great Britain by 9 matches to 3, 3 matches being halved.

1926 Wentworth, England

It was common practice for a small number of professionals to travel to compete in each other's national championship. In 1926, a larger than usual contingent of American professionals travelled to Britain to compete in the Open Championship. It was announced that Walter Hagen would select a team of four American professionals (including himself) to play four British professionals in a match before the Open Championship.

The match would be a stroke play competition with each playing the four opposing golfers over 18 holes. It was also announced that "A golf enthusiast” was ready to donate a cup for an annual competition and it was later confirmed that Samuel Ryder would be presenting a trophy with the first match to be played on 4th and 5th June although details were to be formalised.  The match progressed into being a match-play competition of 8-a-side, with foursomes on the first day and singles on the second, however this eventually became 10 players competing for each team at Hagen’s request.

The match resulted in 13–1 victory for the British team (1 match was halved) and was widely reported as being for the "Ryder Cup". However Golf Illustrated for 11th June stated that because of uncertainty about how many Americans would be visiting Britain, Samuel Ryder had decided to withhold the cup for a year. There was also suggestion that the Ryder Cup itself may not have been in existence at the time. Other factors contributed to the feeling that the Wentworth competition was unofficial such as the fact that Walter Hagen chose the American team rather than the American PGA, that only those Americans who had travelled to Britain to play in the Open were available for selection and that it also contained a number of players born outside the United States.

1927 Worcester, USA

By 1927, the competition was organized on a much more official basis. A Ryder Cup "Deed of Trust" was drawn up formalising the rules of the contest and each of the PGA organisations had a selection process. In Britain, Golf Illustrated launched a fund to raise £3,000 to fund professional golfers to play in both the U.S. Open and the Ryder Cup. Ryder himself contributed £100 and, when the fund closed with a shortfall of £300, he made up the outstanding balance.

In early 1928 it became clear that an annual contest was not practical and so it was decided that the second contest should be in 1929 and then every two years thereafter.

Key Developments

For the 1929 UK contest at Moortown GC, Leeds, the American PGA again restricted their team to those born in the USA but in late 1929 the Deed of Trust was revised requiring all players to be born in and resident in their respective countries, as well as being members of their respective Professional Golfers' Association.

Probably the most significant change to the Ryder Cup has been the inclusion of continental European golfers since 1979. Until then, the matches featured teams representing the United States and Great Britain and Ireland. However, from 1979 players from continental Europe were eligible to join what is now known as Team Europe.

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