Ross Biddiscombe reports from the alternative contest bearing Samuel Ryder’s name that has just taken place in Zimbabwe
Author of Ryder Cup Revealed Ross Biddiscombe reports from the alternative contest bearing Samuel Ryder’s name that has just taken place in Zimbabwe
Yes, this is the alternative Ryder Cup that was presented to a group of African farmers by Sam Ryder himself in 1933. His daughter Marjorie was living in what was then Rhodesia and asked her father for a golf trophy for the locals to play for.
Mr Ryder sent over a smaller, silver near-replica of the original trophy that we now know and love. The Zimbabwe Ryder Cup has been played for on and off by the locals up to 1980 when politics got in the way, but this year it was given a facelift.
It was Samuel Ryder’s original wish that a team from Great Britain would travel to Africa to play for his other trophy, but he died in 1936 and his dream remained unrealised.
That is until three days ago when a friendship tournament between two sets of multi-handicapped amateur club golfers took place – local Zimbabweans against a team who flew in from Great Britain, Europe and America. And yours truly was vice captain of the Internationals.
It was a fabulous three days of fellowship and competition at the Leopard Rock resort near Mutare (the late Queen Mother was among the visitors), a four-hour drive from the Zimbabwean capital Harare.
The contest used just about the exact same rules as the original Ryder Cup does today – a three-day event, with 28 points to fight over and a format of two sets of fourballs and foursomes with a final day of 12 singles matches.
There also were all the usual pre-match dinners and speeches and presentations that will be mirrored in Scotland later this week, while Coca-Cola even came up with sponsorship and the South African TV channel SuperSport recorded the action.
The result was that the Zimbabwean players from two clubs – Hillside and Leopard Rock – beat the Internationals 17-11 after a final day fightback by the visiting team just failed in abnormally rainy conditions.
Before this year’s effort, the Zimbabwe Ryder Cup had been played for in all kinds of ways – often a fourball betterball but sometimes a strokeplay competition – and was pretty much a local secret. During the political troubles, the trophy was even lost for six years and discovered almost by accident in 2006 after being hidden in a locker at the Hillside club.
This year this African competition raised its head over the parapet after 80 years of being virtually unknown. It aimed to fix itself in the minds of the golfing world and the international element was a way of gaining recognition for the Cup’s links to Samuel Ryder beyond a single country.
In fact, the full story was exclusively revealed in my own book, a true tale of the unexpected.
So what a pleasure it was to play in this first ever international Zimbabwe Ryder Cup and this proud vice captain even managed to bring home a point for his team. It was – and should always be – a great event that is worthy of our notice. After all, how many of us can say that we have played in the Ryder Cup…albeit, the Zimbabwe version.
Ross Biddiscombe is author of the new book Ryder Cup Revealed: Tales of the Unexpected. The title is available in all good book shops, via online stores and on www.rydercuprevealed.com.