The Vietnam War was escalating, the first Boeing 747 jet airliner was set to roll off the assembly line, and the Ryder Cup, if not already dead, was on life support. The biennial golf matches between the United States and Great Britain, which except for a ten-year interruption resulting from World War II had been played since 1927, were jeopardized by new and existing forces in professional golf. In the late summer of 1968, the fate of the Ryder Cup rested in the hands of the Americans.
Officials of the United States and British Professional Golfers’ Associations (PGA) were scheduled to meet in London during the third week of September to discuss the 1969 Ryder Cup, which was to be played at Royal Birkdale Golf Club in Southport, England. The location of the matches alternated between the United States and the British Isles, and it was the Brits’ turn to host. Yet, as The Guardian reported on September 19, they were not even able to host an initial meeting. The U.S. PGA representatives weren’t coming to London. They faced serious problems at headquarters in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. It seemed the Ryder Cup was the least of their concerns.
Founded in 1916, the PGA of America was a burgeoning organization of about 5,800 club professionals and 300 year-round tournament players, or tour pros, by the late 1960s. The club pros oversaw golf operations at public and private golf clubs throughout the United States. They gave lessons, sold equipment, promoted golf programs, and, when time allowed, sharpened their own games. Tour pros, conversely, were golf vagabonds, chasing the growing riches on the PGA tournament circuit. Both professional breeds were ruled by pro golf’s governing body in Palm Beach Gardens, but in 1968 the tour pros could no longer tolerate governance they felt didn’t represent their best interests.
Although the players had fought for and won equal representation on the PGA’s Tournament Committee, deadlocks between the committee’s four player representatives and four members of the PGA Executive Committee were broken by an advisory panel—and its decisions were final. This didn’t sit well with the players, one of whom was Jack Nicklaus, and one of the four players on the Tournament Committee who had sought to resolve philosophical differences with the PGA men and gain more autonomy for the players and the tour.
“Just as we wouldn’t presume to tell the P.G.A. how to run its affairs, we think we should have the authority to run ours,” Nicklaus said during that period in The Greatest Game of All, his first book about his life in golf.
There were several thorny issues, including number of tournaments and tournament schedule, course selection and conditions of play, purse sizes and distribution, sponsors, television contracts, and tour administration. During the previous year, for example, the players wanted to start a new tournament sponsored by singing legend Frank Sinatra to the tune of $200,000, but the PGA brass vetoed the idea. Resentment grew. A lot of money and control were at stake, and the two sides could not bridge their differences. The final straw was two television contracts. The PGA negotiated the rights to the World Series of Golf and Shell’s Wonderful World of Golf with no involvement from the tour players. All the resulting TV money went into t
Foreword by Jack Nicklaus and Tony Jacklin
3. Tour Divide
4. The Big Ball
6. The Teams
7. Royal Birkdale
8. The Campaign
9. Thursday: Morning Foursomes
10. Thursday: Afternoon Foursomes
11. Friday: Morning Fourballs
12. Friday: Afternoon Fourballs
13. Saturday: Morning Singles
14. Saturday: Afternoon Singles
16. New Era
Appendix A: 1969 Ryder Cup Results
Appendix B: Ryder Cup Results, 1927 to 2012