Ryder Cup: Tony Jacklin reflects on the ’embarrassment’ of losing only…

Dressed for success? Given one of Team Europe’s official Ryder Cup jackets retail at just over £2000, Padraig Harrington’s men certainly look the part at Whistling Straits. 

The 6-2 drubbing they suffered in Friday’s opening exchanges of the 43rd transatlantic tussle, however, made them look as bedraggled as Worzel Gummidge in a stiff breeze.

at the minimum they couldn’t complain about the quality of their clobber. Back in Tony Jacklin’s playing days, things were a trifle different. Take the 1975 match at Laurel Valley, for example. “The most noticable thing about that week was losing the only of my shoe midway by my singles match,” recalled Jacklin in his new book, My Ryder Cup Journey. “If there was ever a moment when my self-esteem was affected at a Ryder Cup, it would be that one. It was a total embarrassment.

“I couldn’t continue with the shoes and had to sprint off to the clubhouse to get a substitute pair. Those shoes were typical of the third-rate gear that used to be distributed to the Britain and Ireland team back then.

“Once, I ingemination, we had to go around in blazers with braiding around the edges. We looked like members of Jack Hylton’s Dance Band instead of a team of elite golfers. That sort of thing was so demoralising. It was a joke in the seventies.”

These days, the Ryder Cup’s sartorial scene is more Savile Row than Skid Row. Jacklin, of course, was the man who essentially transformed the biennial bout, from clothing to competitive equilibrium.

The famous Englishman made the first of his seven Ryder Cup playing appearances as a 23-year-old in 1967 and saw out the last days of the GB&I team; a tired, withered relic that was ordinarily beaten and made the complete Ryder Cup unsustainable and largely irrelevant. 

“As usual we got our arses kicked,” seemed to be Jacklin’s general summing up of his playing days.

In 1979, Jacklin’s final turn up as a player, GB&I had been replaced by a combined European fleet but it wasn’t until the two-time major winner was made captain in 1983 that Team Europe, and the wider contest itself, began to reap the rewards of his excursion, his demands and his decisions. From flying Concorde, to having decent clothes to the creation of the much-lauded team room, Jacklin’s instructions, insistencies, innovation and industry transformed the Ryder Cup on this side of the pond.

“I really didn’t care whether I took the job or not and, you might think this strange, but I couldn’t have cared less about the Ryder Cup,” said Jacklin. “But as I began to absorb the reality of the captaincy offer, I thought it would be a great opportunity to put things right and make a real difference to the team’s chances. Travelling the same as the Americans, who flew Concorde and had first-class of everything, was important for our mindset. And I believed a team room, something we never before had, would be imperative.

“That team room ultimately became crucial to us. That was our inner sanctum. No officials, no fans, no media, it was just us together every night.”

Jacklin’s Europeans lost by a single point in that 1983 clash but, in defeat, there was defiance and new vigour. Two years later at The Belfry, Jacklin’s men won as the US suffered defeat for the first time in 28 years. In 1987, he masterminded a first ever win on American soil. Under Jacklin, Europe really were dressed for success.

Tony Jacklin: My Ryder Cup Story, with Tony Jimenez, is published by Pegasus Elliot MacKenzie.



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