The Ryder Cup
The Ryder Cup, a biennial men’s golf competition between teams from Europe and the United States, has been contested every two years since 1927. Out of thousands of golf courses, and as of the writing of this article (2018) only 24 golf courses in America has hosted a Ryder Cup. In 1955 Thunderbird was selected to forever become part of this very exclusive group. The Ryder Cup is named after the English businessman Samuel Ryder who donated the original trophy. The 1955 Ryder Cup displayed at Thunderbird was presented to the Club as an honor to the Host Site.
Originally contested between Great Britain and the United States, the first Ryder Cup took place in 1927 at Worcester Country Club in Massachusetts with the U.S. winning the competition. The Ryder Cup Matches were held at Thunderbird on November 5th and 6th of 1955 an unheard of honor for a young golf course in a remote part of the world. This coup was thanks to the effort of Thunderbird Member and grocery magnate, Robert A. Hudson, a friend of Lord Brabazon of Tara, the President of Britain’s PGA. Hudson had previously bailed out the Ryder Cup with his own money in 1947 at Portland Golf Club in Oregon when the rivalry had been “on the brink of oblivion for lack of funds,” according to Golf Life magazine. For the 1955 competition, Thunderbird's golf course was augmented with par being reset at 72 and the golf course lengthened to 6843 yards.
The American team was captained by 1954 PGA Champion Chick Harbert with Lloyd Mangrum as Honorary U.S. Captain. Sam Snead, Cary Middlecoff (1955 Masters Champion), Ted Kroll, Chandler Harper, Marty Furgol, Doug Ford, Jack Burke, Jr., Tommy Bolt and Jerry Barber made up the American Team. An estimated 3,000 fans galleried over the golf course on foot. The British were staggered by the additional 500 golf carts driven by Thunderbird members and spectators.
The Americans won three out of four foursome matches on Saturday and five of the eight singles matches on Sunday. All matches were over 36 holes. The results were broadcast worldwide on radio with legendary writer Henry Longhurst of the Sunday Times of London dispatching stories internationally.
The Club hosted a number of social events illustrated by rare artifacts from Thunderbird’s Historical Collection pictured herein. At the welcoming dinner, Lord Brabazon, an orator likened to Winston Churchill, was accorded a standing ovation for his opening dinner speech at Thunderbird. His lordship held Olympic medals in bobsledding, was the first to fly a plane in England and was the first to keep an airplane in the air for a mile. In his speech he proclaimed that beyond all his accomplishments he “got more pleasure out of golf than anything else.”
Thunderbird is one of three golf courses on the West Coast to have hosted a Ryder Cup. Only a minutely small handful of Clubs across the United States have the honor of being part of the history of the Ryder Cup.