27 Sep 18
The story of Abe Mitchell and the Ryder Cup trophy in many ways epitomises what the PGA stands for.
Mitchell was himself a fine golfer who appeared in two Open Championships as an amateur; Royal St George’s Coronation Open in 1911 and two years later at Royal Liverpool.
On return from serving his country during The Great War, the East Grinstead-born player had his eyes on one prize - the elusive Claret Jug.
It was in his grasp after the opening two rounds at Royal Cinque Ports in 1920, but a disappointing third round score of 84 saw him finish in fourth position – his best ever finish.
Mitchell enjoyed five years at North Foreland Golf Club, Kent, before emigrating to America in 1925 to enhance his status as a player
Samuel Ryder was an entrepreneur at the time as well as a keen golfer. He had sponsored several golf tournaments in the UK and after meeting Mitchell at one particular event at Verulam Golf Club, St Albans, the two men struck up a friendship and Ryder brought Mitchell back to the UK, hiring him as a personal tutor.
Ryder had plans to create an annual match between Britain and America. He was able to persuade a host of Americans to play in a challenge match at Wentworth, Surrey in 1926.
Great Britain won the contest comfortably 13½ - 1½ with Mitchell’s two wins impressing Ryder. This was deemed as the first unofficial Ryder Cup match and although Ryder had created a trophy for the winners, it was unfortunately not made in time.
Soon after a challenge match over 72-holes took place at Wentworth between Mitchell and American captain Walter Hagen. Mitchell looked on target to claim the £500 winning prize after ending the opening day four holes up. Hagen however went on to win the contest after gaining a psychological advantage over Mitchell. The American turned up late, some 30 minutes after the tee off time and his style of play agitated the British player.
Annoyed by the manner of Hagen’s victory, Ryder instructed a model of Mitchell to be placed at the top of the Ryder Cup trophy, which was donated to America for the first official contest between the two teams at Worcester Country Club, Massachusetts in 1927.
Unsurprisingly, Ryder named Mitchell as captain of the Great Britain team but an untimely attack of appendicitis forced arguably Britain’s best player to miss the match. The Ryder Cup trophy and the Great Britain team travelled across the Atlantic without him, losing 9½ - 2½.
Despite missing out that year, Mitchell played an integral role in helping Great Britain win two of the following three matches.
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