Ryder Cup's long history includes one Florida stop and an 'almost'

By: John Schwarb

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The full attention of the golf world descends on Medinah Country Club outside Chicago this week for the Ryder Cup, the biennial competition between Team USA and Team Europe.

Dating to 1927, the Ryder Cup is one of golf’s most popular events with its match play format bringing out the best—and sometimes worst—in golf’s strongest players. Once dominated by the United States’ teams for decades after its inception, the Ryder Cup of the last 20 years has been won more often by Europe.

The seeds of that were planted in Florida.

In 1983, the matches were held at the Champion Course at PGA National Resort & Spa in Palm Beach Gardens, with Team Europe nearly pulling off its first win in the states. Instead, the United States. held on for a 14 1/2-13 ½ win for captain Jack Nicklaus.

After two days of foursomes and four-ball play, the teams were tied 8-8. They then remained tied through the first 10 singles matches. But the U.S. pulled ahead at the very end when Tom Watson defeated Bernard Gallacher 2 and 1 after Gallacher missed a three-foot putt on the 17th hole, then Lanny Wadkins halved his match with Jose Maria Canizares with a pitching wedge to within a foot at the par-5 18th hole.

That is the only time the Ryder Cup matches were held in Florida—but not the first time the matches were supposed to be here.

The 1939 Ryder Cup was scheduled to be played at what is now known as the Ocean Course at Ponte Vedra Inn and Club, but the outbreak of World War II in Europe forced the matches to be canceled. Being named as a host course was a mark of distinction, however, and the Ponte Vedra Inn and Club still mentions the Ryder Cup on its website.

Would you like to see the Ryder Cup matches be played in Florida again? If so, what course would be ideal for match play? Tell us on our Facebook page or on Twitter.

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