The final 4 spots on the 1931 Ryder Cup Team were decided by a 72-hole playoff!

“DID YOU KNOW”
The final 4 spots on the 1931 Ryder Cup Team were decided by a 72-hole playoff!

The PGA of America held its annual meeting in Chicago in November 1930. One topic of discussion was the Ryder Cup eligibility. Tommy Armour, who had been born in Scotland and was now a resident of the United States, had won the PGA Championship that year. There were PGA members who thought that Armour should be on the US Ryder Cup Team. After much discussion the delegates passed a by-law stating that all members of the Ryder Cup Team had to be born in the United States, which meant no Armour. Up to that time it was only an unwritten rule that the Team members had to be native born.

PGA President Charles B. Hall announced the PGA of America’s selections for the 1931 Ryder Cup Team, which was being held at Scioto Country Club in Columbus, Ohio. Walter Hagen was the playing captain for a third time. Five other professionals; Gene Sarazen, Johnny Farrell, Horton Smith, Al Espinosa and Leo Diegel who would be the professional at Philmont CC three years later, were on the team. Having lost the Cup in 1929 Hagen was determined to take it back. At the 1929 Ryder Cup, British captain John Henry Taylor had his team out running on the beach at sunup each day. Hagen named 13 professionals that he was inviting to Scioto for qualifying, to determine the last five places on the team.

On Monday June 22, the contingency of professionals trying to qualify for the last four Ryder Cup spots were at Scioto. One of those professionals was Pennsylvania’s Ed Dudley, the professional at the Concord Country Club. Dudley, the winner of the Los Angeles Open in January, had won the Western Open on Sunday in Dayton beating runner-up Walter Hagen, by four strokes. Now on Monday, he had to battle it out for a berth on the Ryder Cup Team.

On Monday and Tuesday, the hopeful professionals played 36 holes each day. At the conclusion Billy Burke led with a one over par 289. (Bobby Jones had won the 1926 US Open at Scioto with a 293) Wiffy Cox (294) was next and Craig Wood (299) picked up the third place. Denny Shute, who would be the professional at Llanerch Country Club two years later, tied Frank Walsh and Henry Cuici for the fourth and last spot with 302 totals. On Wednesday they played an 18-hole playoff which Shute won with a 72. Dudley, who had been on the team the previous year, missed the playoff by one stroke with a 303 total.

On Thursday the Ryder Cup began. The matches, which were all scheduled for 36 holes, began with 4 foursomes the first day and 8 singles the second day. With 90 holes under his belt in three days, Shute was in Thursday’s starting lineup along with two of the other qualifiers, Burke and Cox. Hagen paired himself with Shute. They won their foursomes match 10 & 9. The next day Shute won his singles match 8 & 6. With temperatures topping out in the mid 90s each day the Brits were out of their element. The US Team won by 9 points to 3.

The US Open was one week later in Toledo at the Inverness Club.

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