Sunday, 30 September 2012
You've heard of the Ryder Cup but who was Samuel Ryder?
Samuel Ryder (24 March 1858 – 2 January 1936) was an English businessman, entrepreneur, golf enthusiast, and golf promoter who originated the idea of selling garden seeds in ‘penny packets’ and built a very successful business.
After funding an international golf competition in 1926, he sponsored the Ryder Cup, donating a gold trophy for the first biennial golf championship between the best professional golfers in the United States and the United Kingdom in 1927.
The Ryder Cup has since developed into golf's most important team competition.
Ryder was also a keen Christian and a member of our church – Spicer Street, St Albans. In fact had it not been for a conversation with the then church minister the Ryder Cup tournament might never have eventuated.
He had been a Sunday school teacher in Sale in his youth, and became president of the Mid-Hertfordshire Sunday School Union in 1911.
After moving to St Albans he joined the Spicer Street church soon after 1895 and quickly threw his weight behind the project of a new church building, Trinity Congregational Church.
After a period of ill health in 1908, Ryder's friend Frank Wheeler, preacher at Trinity, suggested that Ryder take up golf as a way to get more fresh air.
He became an enthusiastic amateur, quickly securing a single-figure handicap and joining Verulam Golf Club, where he served on the greens committee for 20 years. He made large donations to the club, and was appointed captain in 1911, 1926 and 1927.
Ryder considered that something vital was required to rouse British clubs to take a real interest and responsibility in encouraging young professionals of talent in order to match the Americans and expanded this idea with sponsorship of a succession of tournaments and challenge matches that ultimately resulted in his donation of the famous Ryder Cup.
The trophy was valued at 100 guineas and manufactured by the well-known firm of Mappin and Webb.
An informal 1926 match held at Wentworth Club between teams of professionals from Great Britain and the USA served as the impetus for the first official match for the Ryder Cup, staged at Worcester Country Club in Massachusetts, USA during June 1927.
Samuel Ryder started ‘Ryder Seeds’ in the old Dagnall Street Chapel and when he later built his premises in Holywell Hill, the old chapel became a warehouse. The packets would be posted each Friday so that his customers, working men, would receive them for their time off on Saturday afternoons. The business grew rapidly and soon employed around 100 staff.
Ryder, who was described as 'a man of strong and outstanding principles', was also active in local politics who was a city councillor from 1903 to 1916 and mayor of St Albans in 1905.
Sam Ryder died in April 1936 but his widow was a frequent worshipper at 'Spicer Street' until her death in 1955 at the age of ninety-one.
Golf is still very much part of our church’s life. One of our current members, Mark Pinney, also a skilled amateur golfer, now heads up Logos Golf Ministries, a Christian charity dedicated to helping Christians and Churches use golf for furthering the Christian Gospel.