BY MIKE PURKEY
What most people don’t remember is that, at
one time, in order to be eligible for the Ryder Cup,
you had to be a member of the PGA of America
for five years. The rule kept Jack Nicklaus out of
the 1967 matches, even though he had won seven
major championships to that point.
And the rule excluded Arnold Palmer from
the 1959 Ryder Cup, despite having won the
1958 Masters and nine other tournaments in his
“Those points from The Masters undoubtedly
would have placed me on the 1959 team that
played at Eldorado Country Club in Palm Springs,”
Palmer wrote years later. “This injustice stuck in
my craw, I must admit.”
He would more than make up for missing
those matches. Beginning in 1961, Palmer became
the most prolific winner of Ryder Cup points in
history, holding a record that would stand until
1997. Palmer is called the “King” for a number of
reasons, not the least of which is that he was the
ruler of the Ryder Cup for a long number of years.
Palmer won 23 points in 32 matches on six
teams from 1959-73, a mark that would only
be broken 24 years later by Nick Faldo in the
matches at Valderrama in Spain. And Palmer was
the winning captain in 1975, when the Americans
took the competition at Laurel Valley CC, near
Palmer’s home in Latrobe, Pa.
Although Palmer ran up an impressive record
in the first two matches in which he participated,
not all the Brits laid down in front of him. In fact,
Peter Alliss – who is an esteemed broadcaster
but was once a fine competitive player – was
Palmer’s private nemesis.
In 1961, at Royal Lytham & St. Annes, Palmer
halved with Alliss in the morning singles on the
ARNOLD PALMER PLAYING FROM THE ROUGH DURING THE 1961 RYDER CUP AT ROYAL LYTHAM AND ST ANNES GOLF CLUB. THE U.S. TEAM WENT ON TO WIN 14 1/2 - 9 1/2.
“I greatly admired the way Peter played the
game, with such precision and accuracy, which
was almost nothing like my style,” Palmer wrote.
“It says something about the man’s quiet tenac-
ity that I had to work my tail off simply to halve
with him. Cordially shaking hands at the match’s
conclusion, I think both of us knew we’d been in a
dogfight ... and would probably be in a few more
before things were over.”
He was right. In 1963, at East Lake CC in
Atlanta, Alliss clipped Palmer 1 up in the morning
singles on the last day. It was the second match
Palmer lost in compiling a 4-2 record in the
American team’s victory.
Alliss figured prominently in Palmer’s path
in the 1965 matches at Royal Birkdale. Palmer
teamed with Dave Marr and beat Alliss and
Christy O’Connor 6 and 5 in the morning four-
balls, but the British team came back in the after-
noon to take the measure of the Americans, 2 up.