“DID YOU KNOW”
The 1949 Ryder Cup had great golf and controversies!
Having been revived in 1947 following World War II, the 1949 Ryder Cup was being held during September in Yorkshire, England at the Ganton Golf Course. The US team was led by non-playing Captain Ben Hogan, who was recovering from a February near fatal automobile accident. On September 3rd the team sailed for England aboard the RMS Queen Elizabeth.
Golf had returned to normal in the United States following the war, but even by 1947 that wasn’t the case in the United Kingdom, which had been devastated by the war. No one was sure if a Ryder Cup would be played again. Robert A. Hudson, a fruit grower, canner and packer decided to revive the competition by bringing the 1947 Ryder Cup to his club, Portland Golf Club. Hudson paid the travel expenses for the British Team on the RMS Queen Mary. On their arrival, Hudson met them in New York. The Brits were wined and dined at the Waldorf Astoria by Hudson, before he boarded a train to travel with the team on a three and one/half-day cross country trip to Portland. Hudson paid for the British Team’s housing, meals, everything. He spent $70,000 hosting the event. The US won 11 points to 1.
When it came time for the US team to travel to England for the 1949 Ryder Cup, Hudson was with them, along with the title, Ryder Cup Secretary. Still suffering the after effects of the war, Great Britain was on meat rationing. To be safe, the US team took along 600 steaks, 6 dozen hams, 12 sides of beef and 4 boxes of bacon. No one ever said that the meat was Hudson’s idea, but it seemed like it must have been. During the days leading up to the match on September 16-17, there were endless articles in the British press about the Americans bringing along a half ton of meat, which the US Team shared with the British Team. Hogan told the British press that for 12 days he had been reading articles mostly about the US Team’s food, and very little about the Ryder Cup itself.
Something that could have been a problem for the US professionals was that they had to play with the smaller British golf ball. The British ball was smaller, 1.62 inches in diameter vs. 1.68, but weighed the same as the US ball. It played better in the wind but being smaller, it did not sit up as well on the turf. Hogan said that during the voyage his team had been hitting the British golf balls into the ocean off the deck of the ship every day. He figured it would take about three days on the Ganton course for his men to adjust to the smaller ball.
On the eve of the matches Captain Hogan filed a complaint with the British captain concerning the depth and spacing of the grooves in some of his players’ irons. Hogan said that 1939 British Open champion Dick Burton’s whole set of clubs should be disqualified. Burton had drilled small holes in his wedges for better control of the ball on greens that were baked out from a warm summer. British team member Charlie Ward said that if British Captain Henry Cotton had not been so nasty in 1947, we wouldn’t be having these problems. At the 1947 Ryder Cup, Cotton had forced most of the American team to file down the faces of their wedges. Cotton had made the team in 1949, but declined to play.
World famous British golf writer Bernard Darwin, grandson of biologist Charles Darwin, and Ed Dudley, honorary US Captain and past PGA President, were chosen to oversee the adjustments to the Brit’s clubs. Darwin stated that there was nothing that a little filing would not correct. After all that, the British players agreed to play with the same grooves as the US Team.
Despite missing most of 1949 due to his auto accident, Hogan still had plenty of points to be a playing member of the team. Though not fit to play, he was not replaced with another player, so the US had just nine healthy players. All matches were scheduled for 36 holes. The first day of foursomes left the US in a 1 point to 3 points deficit. The US team got a break when overnight rain softened the greens after round one, which made them more like what they were accustomed to. The next day in the singles, the US won 6 of the 8 matches, for a 7 to 5 victory.
Was all of this noise about grooves a.matter of substance or mostly just mind games? I think it was a little of both.
In my teens I caddied a lot for a hustler in Ohio who carried a rat tailed file which he regularly applied to the grooves in his wedge which did seem to enable him to stop the ball when others could not on the rock hard muni greens. Later, it was written that he paired with storied Titanic Thompson in some hustling. His widow told me that he ended up hiding in his bedroom from gangster types who sought revenge when hs picked the wrong guys to hustle. I wrote two pieces about my experiences as his caddy one of which appears in my published memoirs along with the photo below showing his classic form (with me as caddy in the background)in chipping from a fairway bunker on the 17th at Snyder Park muni in the finals of the1950 Springfield, Ohio City Am Championship which he won and again in 1952. r. lamar kilgore 2193 yellow springs rd. malvern, pa 19355 610-640-1611