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Us Against Them: An Oral History of the Ryder Cup


Us Against Them: An Oral History of the Ryder Cup

This past weekend the world watched the biennial golf match between
the best professional golfers from the United States and their
opponents from Europe. Each day roughly 40,000 spectators attended
the matches held this year at Oakland Hills in Michigan. The
worldwide television audience exceeded 100 million. Given the
worldwide marketing, national fervor and hoopla of this event, some
fans of the Ryder Cup might be surprised to learn that as recently
as twenty years ago, the Ryder Cup was on the verge of extinction
as a golfing event.

US AGAINST THEM: An Oral History of the Ryder Cup, by Robin
McMillan, follows the history of the matches from inception in 1927
to the most recent match in 2002. This year's match concluded last
Sunday with the Europeans capturing a resounding victory. As in
previous years, it was a hard fought and tenacious contest. But the
recently concluded contest can only be appreciated by referencing
the previous battles for the cup donated many years ago by Samuel
Ryder. McMillan traces the history of the Cup through a series of
interviews with participants, organizers and Ryder Cup captains,
perhaps the most revered position in professional golf other than
major tournament champion. The saga is both informative and

The actual commencement of the Ryder Cup matches is shrouded in
some confusion. What is known is that Samuel Ryder, a British
businessman, established the groundwork for the matches that
formally began in 1927. Prior to that year, Ryder had arranged
matches between English and American professionals, but the method
of choosing the teams was informal and there was no actual
involvement by the Professional Golf Association of the United
States. As an oral history, US AGAINST THEM suffers because very
few of the originators of the Ryder Cup remain alive today to
discuss the formative years. Interestingly, Peter Allis, current
ABC golf commentator and eight-time Cup participant, offers history
through the reminiscences of his father, Percy Allis. Despite that
source of information, it is fair to say that information of the
early Ryder Cup years is not the strength of this book.

If there is a shortcoming to this oral history it comes from two
sources, both beyond the author's control. Obviously, many of the
Ryder Cup participants from the years immediately after World War
II, when interest in the transatlantic battles began to grow, are
no longer available to be interviewed. Thus, there are no
recollections from Hogan, Snead, Henry Cotton or Dai Rees, all
frequent Cup opponents in the '40s and '50s. Many of the golfing
greats from more recent Ryder Cups --- Nicklaus, Palmer, Woods,
Montgomerie and Garcia --- apparently declined to be interviewed
for this book. But those who agreed to be interviewed have much to
offer about the matches on the course and some behind-the-scenes
battles as well. In 1975, Arnold Palmer was U.S. Captain at Laurel
Valley Golf Club, Arnie's home course. The club had a strict policy
against women in the dining room. Jack Nicklaus told Palmer what he
thought of that rule. "Never mind the rules and all that crap,
Arnold. If my wife is not sitting down to have lunch with me
tomorrow, I'm going home." The rule was relaxed to allow women to
dine between 11 am and 1 pm.

By the late 1970s, the Cup matches had become so one-sided that
interest had waned substantially. In 1977, American Tom Weiskopf
chose to go hunting rather than participate. But a man whose name
most American golfers would not even recognize, Colin Snape, the
executive director of the British PGA, saved the Cup from
extinction by bringing European professionals into the matches. The
struggles of the '80s and '90s made golfing history with closely
fought matches and strong patriotic fervor ringing from both sides
of the Atlantic Ocean. The battle for the Ryder Cup is now an
eagerly anticipated event.

This year's Cup battle is now completed. If this was the first year
you followed the match and wish to learn more about previous Ryder
Cup battles, then US AGAINST THEM is for you. If you are a Ryder
Cup or golfing fan in general, you will enjoy this well-written
history of one of golf's premier events.

Reviewed by Stuart Shiffman on January 24, 2011

Us Against Them: An Oral History of the Ryder Cup
by Robin McMillan

  • Publication Date: August 1, 2004
  • Genres: Nonfiction, Sports
  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins
  • ISBN-10: 0060197919
  • ISBN-13: 9780060197919