A match between American and British golf professionals was played in 1921!

A Match Between American and British Golf Professionals Was Played in 1921!

A forerunner to the Ryder Cup was played in June of 1921. A golf magazine called Golf Illustrated sponsored the match, which was played in Scotland. The magazine solicited money from its readers and the PGA professionals at the various clubs around the country assisted with the funding by collecting donations from their members. The golfers were asked to each donate $1. Enough money had to be raised to pay the expenses for the team members to make the overseas trip for the match and the British Open.

Twelve American golf professionals, which were chosen by the PGA of America, were selected to oppose twelve golf professionals from Great Britain.  The members of the American team had to be native born or naturalized citizens. The match was played in Scotland and hosted by the Gleneagles Golf Club. Six members of the American team had been born in either Scotland or England.

1921 Pre Ryder Cup Team (3)Five members of the American team had connections to clubs that would make up the Philadelphia PGA later that year. They were Charlie Hoffner, Wilfrid Reid, Clarence Hackney, Jim Barnes and Emmett French.

Hoffner was the professional at Philmont Country Club and would win the first Philadelphia PGA Championship one year later. Because Hoffner was born and spent his whole career here the old Philadelphia golfers used to refer to him as the “Ryder Cupper”, which was not exactly true but nice.

Reid was the professional at Wilmington Country Club and Hackney was the Atlantic City Country Club professional. Barnes had been the professional at Whitemarsh Valley Country Club from 1914 to 1917 and had won the first two PGA Championships. French had learned to play golf while working in the locker room at Merion Cricket Club (later Merion Golf Club) as a boy and then had been the professional at the Country Club of York form 1914 to 1920. French was the captain of the team. Another member of the team, Bill Mehlhorn, would later be the professional at the Brandywine Country Club in 1947 and 1948.

The other members of the U.S. team were Walter Hagen, Jock Hutchison, Fred McLeod, George McLean, Tom Kerrigan and J. Douglas Edgar.

As it turned out two American team members were not able to play. Barnes had a case of neuritis and J. Douglas Edgar was not allowed to play because he had not yet become a United States citizen. (Edgar was only selected at the last minute when one of the team could not make the trip. Maybe he was selected because he was in New York and on the way to the British Open. He was a worthy pick as he had won the 1919 Canadian Open by 16 strokes. ) Due to that it was ten against ten. They played five foresome (alternate strokes) matches in the morning and ten singles in the afternoon. The British team won 10-1/2 of the 15 points. The Philadelphia players won two and one-half of the points.

Jock Hutchison, a transplanted Scot from St. Andrews, won the British Open at St. Andrews’ Old Course two weeks later.

The Ryder Cup, which was first played in 1927, is back in Scotland and at Gleneagles this month. One difference is that the 1921 match took place on the Kings Course and this year’s match will be played on the relative new PGA Centenary Course.

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