59 years after GB&I’s last win over the USA in the Ryder Cup, Fergus Bisset looks back at an outstanding performance by Dai Rees and his team at Lindrick in 1957.
Captain Rees backed himself in the second pairing with the experienced Ken Bousfield. It was a bold move by the Welshman given he had won just one half point in four previous Ryder Cup foursomes outings. But his self-confidence proved well founded as he and Bousfield produced a supremely solid performance to defeat Art Wall and Fred Hawkins by 3&2.
In match three, 1951 Open champion Max Faulkner teamed up with fellow Englishman Harry Weetman who had won only one Ryder Cup match in three previous outings. He wouldn’t add to that total at Lindrick.
Up against U.S. Captain Jack Burke and Ted Kroll, neither of whom had enjoyed particularly successful seasons, the Brits were fancied to win. But, after a scrappy first round the Americans went to lunch one hole ahead.
Both sides had played poorly over the first 18 holes and the general consensus amongst spectators and press was that the Englishmen would find their games in the afternoon and the yanks would crumble. The exact opposite happened, Kroll and Burke raced to the turn in 33 and encountered only minimal resistance. The Americans cruised home 4&3 winners.
In the final foursomes contest, there was very little contest. The potentially fiery Celtic alliance of Ireland’s Christy O’Connor and Scotland’s Eric Brown failed to ignite and they were brushed aside 7&5 by Dick Mayer and the tempestuous Tommy Bolt.
GB&I were down by 3 points to 1 after day one and it all felt rather familiar. If Rees was going to avoid captaining another losing side he needed things shaken up a bit.
Firstly he dropped Max Faulkner and Harry Weetman from the singles. Faulkner took it on the chin and played a pivotal supporting role on the final day, Weetman was incensed and stated he’d, “never play in a team captained by Rees again.”
The weather played its part – the wind picked up on day two and the gustier conditions undoubtedly favoured the home players who were used to battling the breeze on the British and Irish links.
Another change was ostensibly made by the greenkeepers, although it’s hard to imagine Rees had no part in it. The putting surfaces were cut shorter for day two making them significantly quicker. The British and Irish seemed to realise this, but the Americans took some time to adapt. No fewer than six of the U.S. players three-putted the first green.
In the first singles match “Terrible” Tommy Bolt took on hardy Scotsman Eric Brown. In a hostile encounter, Bolt felt the partisan crowd overstepped the mark. “They cheered when I missed a putt and sat on their hands when I hit a good shot,” he said later.
When Brown took the win by 4&3 the pair did not shake hands. Afterwards Bolt told the press he hadn’t enjoyed the match before snapping a wedge in half in the locker room and refusing to attend the presentation.
Jack Burke hadn’t intended to play the singles but when Ted Kroll fell ill, the American captain stepped in at late notice to take on Peter Mills in match two.
It was a one-sided affair with Burke playing some untypically sloppy golf in the first round. The American limped in to lunch five down. Although Burke’s game improved in the afternoon, Mills held on to win the only Ryder Cup match he would ever play by 5&3.
In contrast to the lacklustre performance of the American captain, GB&I’s skipper put on a sparkling display against Ed Furgol. Rees stormed through the first round, birdieing the par-3 last to go into lunch four ahead. Furgol, in his one and only Ryder Cup match, didn’t know what had hit him. The Welshman continued the onslaught in the afternoon and handed his opponent a “dog licence” winning by 7&6.
Also legally permitted to keep a dog following the conclusion of his match was Dow Finsterwald. Having played so well against Alliss and Hunt, the American was expected to cruise past Christy O’Connor.
But, thanks to a new putter bought in the pro-shop at lunch, the Irishman caught fire in the afternoon and scorched to a comprehensive victory.
There was also a convincing win for Bernard Hunt. The young Englishman thumped matchplay supremo Doug Ford by 6&5 to well and truly heal the injuries of 1953. Unfortunately, Peter Alliss couldn’t find the same elixir in his match with Fred Hawkins, as he went down by 2&1.
With only one singles point on the board for the Americans, Ken Bousfield had the chance to claim the winning point for GB&I against USPGA champion Lionel Hebert. The result of this one was never in doubt with Bousfield five up by lunch. Although Hebert refused to lie down, he couldn’t rally sufficiently to deny Bousfield a 4&3 win. The Englishman tapped in a two-foot putt at the 33rd hole to secure the Ryder Cup for Great Britain and Ireland.
After Harry Bradshaw and Dick Mayer had played out an exciting half, GB&I had won the singles by 6.5 to 1.5 and the match overall by 7.5 to 4.5.
It was the worst ever singles performance by the Americans in the Ryder Cup and, as Ed Furgol said afterwards, they were, “well and truly licked.”
Although an elated Dai Rees described the victory as a, “shot in the arm for British and Irish golf,” the syringe contained only a placebo. GB&I were beaten soundly in nine of the next 10 Ryder Cups with only an unofficial half in 1969 to partially celebrate – the USA retained the trophy in that event.
GB&I became Europe in 1979 thanks to Jack Nicklaus’ necessary intervention, but even then, they lost three more Cups before Tony Jacklin’s men finally triumphed in 1985 and ushered in a new era of closely fought matches. Sadly Dai Rees wasn’t around to witness the USA’s first defeat since Lindrick, the Welshman died after a car crash in 1983.
Scores from 1957
Peter Alliss & Bernard Hunt lost to Ford & Dow Finsterwald by 2&1
Ken Bousfield & Dai Rees beat Art Wall & Fred Hawkins by 3&2
Max Faulkner & Harry Weetman lost to Ted Kroll & Jack Burke by 4&3
Christy O’Connor & Eric Brown lost to Dick Mayer & Tommy Bolt by 7&5
GB&I 1 – USA 3
Eric Brown beat Tommy Bolt by 4&3
Peter Mills beat Jack Burke by 5&3
Peter Alliss lost to Fred Hawkins by 2&1
Ken Bousfield beat Lionel Hebert by 4&3
Dai Rees beat Ed Furgol by 7&6
Bernard Hunt beat Doug Ford by 6&5
Christy O’Connor beat Dow Finsterwald by 7&6
Harry Bradshaw halved with Dick Mayer
GB&I 6.5 – USA 1.5
Match: GB&I 7.5 – USA 4.5