Ryder Cup rose from obscurity and may soon end in oblivion

If only to give younger readers some idea of how much this sporting life has changed, the Ryder Cup of 1975, played for at Laurel Valley, Pennsylvania, came and went without causing much of a stir in the toy departments of Fleet Street. No big previews. Scant coverage. "Not sure that it's worth you being there," I remember my sports editor of the time saying.

If only to give younger readers some idea of how much this sporting life has changed, the Ryder Cup of 1975, played for at Laurel Valley, Pennsylvania, came and went without causing much of a stir in the toy departments of Fleet Street. No big previews. Scant coverage. "Not sure that it's worth you being there," I remember my sports editor of the time saying.

I got to Laurel Valley that September only because it was, more or less, on the route to Manila where Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier were about to engage in what turned out to be an epic contest for the heavyweight championship. Seeking a line on developments preceding my arrival, I scanned the sports pages of the most prominent print in the area. Tucked away was a story that began as follows: "A team of professional golfers representing the United States warmed up yesterday for a biennial match against Great Britain and Ireland..." Syndicated columnists, whose fame exceeded local circulation limits, showed no interest.

A few days earlier, I'd met with a senior employee of the New York Police Department for the purpose of finding out whether the United States had a problem with spectator violence in sport similar to our own at the time. Opening one of many large metal drawers, mostly marked "homicide", he drew out a thin green file containing two sheets of paper. "We don't have your problem," he said. "That's about it then," I said. "Not unless you want to think about some nut with a gun taking out a high profile sports figure like Muhammad Ali, Jack Nicklaus, Joe Namath," he replied. "It's one of my big fears."

At Laurel Valley I could see how easy this would be to accomplish. There was no security to speak of, nor, for that matter, many spectators. People came and went, many mystified by the proceedings. "What is this Ryder Cup?" one of the volunteer drivers asked. Excitement rose when Brian Barnes twice defeated Nicklaus in the singles, however the response back home approximated to a yawn. "Keep it tight," I was told after communicating the fact of another crushing US victory.

We're not talking ancient here; not going back to when Ryder Cup teams crossed the Atlantic by boat and caddies dressed as though they'd been recruited from a food line. Only 25 years.

To quote A J Liebling, which is the least I can do in return for his example, the one thing about sport upon which most veterans are in agreement is that it used to be better. In common with their brethren in other sporting fields, older golf writers are persistent howlers after antiquity. This takes in a time when the Ryder Cup was pretty much a jolly and of no great interest outside the golfing community.

The difference now is enormously obvious, brought about by the formation of a team drawn from the whole of Europe, television and rampant commercialism. The Ryder Cup has become a vehicle for egoism, not least that of those commentators and writers who seem to regard objectivity in these matters as an admission of treason. One columnist crassly suggested this week that there is no point in holding the Ryder Cup unless it is allowed to embrace a hard-nosed disregard for normal golfing etiquette. Anybody who thinks that way is contributing to sport's downfall.

A personal point of view, one nobody is obliged to share, is that the Ryder Cup may not survive much beyond this decade. Hyped out of all proportion, ludicrously described as the greatest team event in sport, its future depends entirely on whether Europe can maintain a challenge.

The impression given by a number of the American players, including Tiger Woods, who has never shown much affection for the matchplay format, is that they would happily consign the Ryder Cup to history. I guess Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Tom Watson, Sam Snead, Ben Hogan and Byron Nelson never felt that way but the time we live in is different.

As for the idea that the Ryder Cup will grip all America this weekend, let's go back just a little bit. On the morning after Europe won back the trophy at Oak Hills, New York, in 1995, I took a train from Rochester to Albany, a journey of about three hours. None of the passengers to whom I spoke even knew that the match had taken place.

It's easy to form exaggerated thoughts about these things. Loss of the America's Cup was supposed to have plunged our former transatlantic colonies into gloom. "Didn't see any suicides on the A train," a friend said. He holds the sure and certain belief that the Ryder Cup is overrated.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss
Tony Blair joins a strange and exclusive club of political leaders whose careers have been blighted by the Middle East

Blair has joined a strange and exclusive club

A new tomb has just gone up in the Middle East's graveyard of US and British political reputations, says Patrick Cockburn
Election 2015: Meet the top 12 wacky candidates seeking your vote in May

Election 2015

Meet the top 12 wacky candidates seeking your vote in May
Countdown to the election: Operation Save Danny Alexander shifts into high gear as the SNP target his Commons seat

Operation Save Danny Alexander shifts into high gear

The Chief Secretary to the Treasury didn’t forget his Highland roots in the Budget. But the SNP is after his Commons seat
The US economy is under threat because of its neglected infrastructure

The US is getting frayed at the edges

Public spending on infrastructure is only half of Europe’s, and some say the nation’s very prosperity is threatened, says Rupert Cornwell
Mad Men final episodes: Museum exhibition just part of the hoopla greeting end of 1960s-set TV hit

New Yorkers raise a glass to Mad Men

A museum exhibition is just part of the hoopla greeting the final run of the 1960s-set TV hit
Land speed record: British-built hybrid rocket car aims to be the fastest on Earth

British-built hybrid rocket car aims to be the fastest on Earth

Bloodhound SSC will attempt to set a new standard in South Africa's Kalahari desert
Housebuilders go back to basics by using traditional methods and materials

Housebuilders go back to basics - throwing mud at the wall until it sticks

Traditional materials are ticking all the construction boxes: they are cheap, green – and anyone can use them
Daniel Brühl: 'When you have success abroad, you become a traitor. Envy is very German'

Daniel Brühl: 'Envy is very German'

He's got stick for his golden acting career and for his beloved restaurant - but Daniel Brühl is staying put in Berlin (where at least the grannies love him)
How Leica transformed photography for ever: Celebrating 100 years of the famous camera

Celebrating 100 years of Leica

A new book reveals how this elegant, lightweight box of tricks would transform the way we saw life on the street and in fashion, on the battlefield and across the world