Came Down Golf Club and the Ryder Cup
Came Down Golf Club played an important part in the founding of the Ryder Cup. Samuel Ryder, the donor of the Ryder Cup, was a St Albans seed merchant who made his fortune partly thanks to having the foresight to sell seeds to the public in the form of the 'Penny Seed Packet'. A member of the Verulam Golf Club, he was determined to improve the lowly status of the golf professional. Accordingly he arranged for one of his companies to sponsor the 'Heath and Heather' tournament at his beloved Verulam club in 1923.
For his holidays Ryder liked to go to the seaside resort of Weymouth on Dorset's coast (a few miles from Came Down GC). Taking a party with him comprised of various relations and golfing friends, he always stayed right on the esplanade at the Royal Hotel, usually for a fortnight. Ryder played golf at Came Down and eventually became a member and took the greatest of interests in the club's affairs. In particular he noticed the brilliant play of the Whitcombe brothers. He asked Ernest if they ever played in important tournaments, Ernest replied that they rarely did. They could ill afford the unpaid time and travel costs so much. Ernest told Ryder, "the Americans come over here smartly dressed and backed by wealthy supporters. The Britisher has a poor chance compared to that".
Now Sam Ryder was a man full of pity and sympathy for 'the other chap'. It was just this kind of sympathy for the underdog that Ernest Whitcombe's comments brought out. Samuel Ryder's eldest daughter Mrs Marjorie Claisen takes up the story in her 1979 booklet entitled 'The Ryder Family':
Father considered that something vital was required to rouse golf clubs to take a real interest and responsibility in encouraging any young 'pros' who showed promise, such as the Whitcombes at Came Down. He consulted his friends Abe Mitchell and George Duncan who had both made names for themselves in the golfing world. Together they discussed the question of the poor support given to British 'pros', and the idea emerged for some important contest to be set up, to be played solely between Britain and America.
Father provided the gold Cup; beautifully designed and bearing on top the figure of a golfer based on a photograph of Abe Mitchell.
So was born The Ryder Cup. It has definitely achieved the aim which father had in mind - British 'pros' are now respected and supported by clubs eager that their man shall be included in The Ryder Cup team, on equal standing with the wealthy Americans. The golfing world now has opportunities for them which were impossible in the old days before ' The Ryder Cup '.
The rest, as they say, is history.