The Ryder Cup returned home to St Albans last night for the opening of a new heritage exhibition telling the story of golf’s greatest team event.
Samuel Ryder, who donated the striking gold cup which today symbolises one of the world’s great sporting contests, was an English seed merchant and entrepreneur from St Albans in Hertfordshire who rose to the position of Mayor, and it was the current incumbent in the role, the Mayor of St Albans City and District Cllr Aislinn Lee, who officially opened the exhibition at the Verulamium Museum.
Among the guests gathered for the civic reception were Ryder Cup Director Richard Hills, Sandy Jones, Chief Executive of the Professional Golfers’ Association, PGA Chairman Phil Weaver, PGA Captain Eddie Bullock and Ryder Cup player and TV commentator Ken Brown. They were joined by the daughters of victorious 1957 Ryder Cup Captain Dai Rees, Jennifer Johnson and Gillian Williams, and representatives of the Samuel Ryder Foundation.
The exhibition, which will remain in St Albans until the end of June, features personal items from past players as well as rarely seen photographs while a series of specially created display cases and graphic story boards recount the history of the matches, covering its growth from a friendly competition to one of the biggest sporting events in the world.
Organisers are also hoping that the exhibition can be a useful educational resource and will encourage local schools to visit the museum and discover the Ryder Cup’s rich links with St Albans.
In opening The Ryder Cup Heritage Exhibition, Mayor Aislinn Lee said: “It is a great honour for St Albans to host this exhibition. This was Sam Ryder’s home and he became one of the most famous sons of this city. He was a social reformer who built up a business selling penny packets of seeds, a great benefactor who used his money to help the working people of this town. And most importantly we remember him for providing the most iconic trophy in golf, if not in sport.”
Sandy Jones summed up Ryder with two words “visionary and benevolence”.
“It is fitting this exhibition starts here in St Albans before travelling around the UK and Europe before eventually making its way to Gleneagles in 2014,” he said. “Sam left this legacy and I think he would be proud of what he started. I think he would be proud of the great iconic game it has become today, I think he would be proud of this exhibition and proud it starts here in St Albans as it was his home and he would want to give something back to this city through the trophy he created.”
Ryder only took to golf late in life on the advice of his doctor and quickly discovered a passion for the game at Verulum Golf Club game under the tutelage of Abe Mitchell. And when he witnessed an early friendly match between Great Britain and America at Wentworth, Ryder became a prime mover in making it a regular affair and donated the striking gold cup that will again be the focus of attention when Europe defend it against the United States at Medinah, Chicago, later this year.
The Ryder Cup Heritage Exhibition will be on display in the Verulamium Museum from Friday 20th April to Thursday 28th June. Opening hours are Monday to Saturday 10.00am to 5.30pm and Sunday 2.00pm to 5.30pm. For more information, please visit www.stalbansmuseums.org.uk