The Guardian has been celebrating the Olympic Torch Relay with its own online writer’s relay. Each day, guest writers are asked to describe what it means to them to see the flame visiting their own home town.
For the Torch Relay’s journey through St Albans on Sunday 8 July, SportingLandmarks was asked to contribute.
Update: On 27 July, the day of the London 2012 Opening Ceremony, the Guardian summed-up what turned-out to be a great project.
One of the inspirations for creating this blog was discovering that although Samuel Ryder had lived in St Albans, recognition of the man who had conceived the world’s greatest team event in golf is remarkably sparse within the City.
I found this even more remarkable when I learned, partly through reading the excellent Samuel Ryder The Man Behind the Ryder Cup by Peter Fry (Wright Press, Dorset, 2000) that Ryder had also been a highly successful entrepreneur – his mail order seed business would teach a thing or two to modern online retailers – a progressive employer, City councilor, Mayor and generous benefactor – to non-conformist Christian causes as well as professional golf.
Together with his brother, he was also a pioneer of the use of golf sponsorship as a marketing tool. Between 1923 and 1925, as partners in Heath & Heather, a herbal remedy business, the Ryder brothers organised and sponsored a series of match play tournaments for professional golfers.
Ryder first decided to present a cup “to foster warm relations and goodwill” between representative teams of professional golfers from Britain and the United States in 1926. Although the match was played – at Wentworth – the trophy wasn’t presented. It was felt the contest didn’t fully match Ryder’s vision since the US team had been selected by Walter Hagan from Americans in Britain for the Open, rather than by the US PGA. The first official Ryder Cup was played at the Worcester Country Club in Massachusetts the following year.
The other fascinating thing about Ryder’s story is that virtually every significant landmark connecting his life with St Albans – homes, business premises etc – are still standing. They are also concentrated in a remarkably small area which only serves to remind us just how much British towns and cities have expanded during the 20th century.
Take a virtual walk around St Albans with my Flickr photo set of Ryder-related landmarks.
View Samuel Ryder in St Albans in a larger map