The Ryder Cup

The Ryder Cup: a unique story

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Samuel Ryder – entrepreneur and golfing benefactor.

Samuel Ryder was born in 1858. The son of a Manchester corn merchant, he joined the family business before moving south to St Albans, Hertfordshire, where he developed the idea of selling penny seed packets to gardeners and distributing them by post.

St Albans was well connected by the new railways that were built in Britain in the 19th century, and proved an ideal hub from which Samuel could distribute the seeds to the growing number of working people who had money to pursue their hobby.

Find out about the man who gives his name to The Ryder Cup.

He carefully planned the distribution so that his customers would receive the seeds at the weekend, during their time off from work. His business took root and quickly flourished. In time, it would employ 100 people. A devout non-conformist, Samuel went to great lengths to treat his staff well.

Keen to spread his wings further, Samuel helped to establish the Heath & Heather herbal shop business, which later became part of Holland & Barrett, the international health food retailer we know today.

Having developed his idea, understood his customer, invested in his people and intelligently taken his product to market, Samuel had established himself as a successful entrepreneur.

And Samuel combined success on the bottom line with triumph at the ballot box when he was elected Mayor of St Albans in 1905. However, his health began to deteriorate under the heavy workload. Doctors encouraged him to take regular exercise and get lots of fresh air and light.

What better way to follow these orders than to take up golf? Never one to deal in half measures, Samuel paid professional golfer Abe Mitchell to instruct him. He practised hard and soon got his handicap down to six.

Bridging his twin passions, he sponsored a Heath & Heather golf tournament in 1923. Three years later, he attended an informal trans-Atlantic golf tournament at Wentworth. Samuel watched Abe Mitchell win the decisive match before joining players from both teams for a drink.

Together, they conceived the idea of a regular match between British and American professionals, with the successful entrepreneur and keen amateur golfer providing the trophy.

The two teams first contested the trophy at the Worcester Country Club, Massachusetts, in June 1927. The Ryder Cup was born.