Behind The Ryder Cup book review

Pete Burns and Ed Hodge tell the history of the Ryder Cup through the words of the players

Behind The Ryder Cup
Behind The Ryder Cup

Behind the Ryder Cup by Pete Burns and Ed Hodge delivers an incredibly comprehensive tour of the trans-Atlantic contest through the words of the players involved in each of the matches over the decades.

The amount of work that has gone into Pete Burns and Ed Hodge’s new book is quite staggering. Behind The Ryder Cup, The Players Stories charts the history of the great trans-Atlantic golfing contest through the words of those involved in every match since the contest’s inception.

Through interviews with players and captains, and by extensive research across a variety of sources, Pete and Ed have created a broad and brilliant record of the Ryder Cup. Fans of the event may have heard many of the wider stories before, but to gain such an insight from an inside perspective sheds new light and gives a true feeling for the atmosphere surrounding each of the matches and within respective locker rooms at those contests.

The book begins with a short chapter titled “Genesis,” explaining how the Cup came to be: the 1921 match between American and British pros at Gleneagles, a further contest at Wentworth in 1926, the vision of Samuel Ryder and his donation of a trophy and the scheduling of the first Ryder Cup match to be played at Worcester, Massachusetts in 1927.

After that, the individual chapters focus on each of the Ryder Cup matches played from 1927 to 2014. Something to note about this book is that it can be read in two different ways. You can go from cover to cover, enjoying the matches chronologically, the development of the contest and how the players and captains come and go over the decades. For instance, you see the introduction of Dai Rees at the 1937 matches at Southport & Ainsdale, and how much of an impact he made there as a 24-year-old, that really puts into context his famous captaincy at Lindrick 20 years later.

But, you can also choose to dip in and out of the book. Each chapter is a stand-alone work and you can jump from 1931 to, say, 2010 and back to 1935 via “the concession” in 1969.

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Each chapter is beautifully introduced by the authors and, in between the player and captain commentaries, interesting asides have been added throughout.

But, it’s the quality of the players’ testimonies that stand out. The information gleaned from primary and secondary sources is superb. There’s enough material to produce a number of books on the Ryder Cup included in this single tome. And it is a big book – almost 500 pages, with no filler.

There are great stories of how individual matches within each Ryder Cup played out – the feelings of the players at the time and where turning points occurred, it’s the small insights that are so fascinating. The coverage of the more recent Ryder Cups is the most detailed because memories of these are more vivid and information on the matches more complete. To read the accounts by each of the players at stirring contests like Medinah in 2012 or Kiawah Island in 1991 brings those events back to life in a unique way.

But, just as interesting as the detailed recollections are some of the broader thoughts expressed by players in the early matches. Pete and Ed have uncovered some incredible quotes by legends of the game. As an example, look at this one by J.H. Taylor from 1933:

“A golfer must by necessity live a clean, wholesome and sober life… If he uses up the reserve force, or abuses himself in any way, he has cast his opportunities aside… A man who lives a careless or a vicarious life can never succeed in golf.” …. Strong advice indeed.

Overall this book is a superb account of the Ryder Cup from its inception to modern times. It provides unique insight from the perspective of those directly involved, both American and European. The level of research and effort that has gone in is remarkable, and even the most die-hard Ryder Cup fans will learn a great deal from the information uncovered and displayed on its pages. This one is highly recommended for all golf lovers.

Fergus is a golf obsessive and 1-handicapper. Growing up in the North East of Scotland, golf runs through his veins and it was concentrated by his time at St Andrews university studying history. He went on to earn a post graduate diploma from the London School of Journalism. Fergus has worked for Golf Monthly since 2004 and has written two books on the game; "Great Golf Debates" together with Jezz Ellwood of Golf Monthly and "The Ultimate Golf Book" together with Neil Tappin (also of Golf Monthly)... Fergus once shanked a ball from just over Granny Clark's Wynd on the 18th of the Old Course that struck the St Andrews Golf Club and rebounded into the Valley of Sin, from where he saved par. Who says there's no golfing god?