Review

Mr. Ryder's Trophy

by Shirley Dusinberre Durham



From September 23-29, at Belfry Golf Club in Sutton, England, teams
from the United States and Europe will once again battle for the
Ryder Cup. The event, established in 1927 by English merchant
Samuel Ryder, pits professional golfers from the United States and
England in a multi-day golf match that has reached an almost heroic
significance in both the golfing and non-golfing sports world. The
publication of MR. RYDER'S TROPHY by Shirley Dusinberre Durham, a
fictional meditation on the Ryder Cup, golf, and life in general,
coincides with this year's match. The novel, like the Ryder Cup, is
an enjoyable experience, regardless of one's affection for the game
of golf.

The Ryder Cup was established as a biennial contest between teams
from America and Great Britain. After some early equally divided
contests, the Americans began a domination that threatened the very
existence of the matches. The British managed only one victory
between 1935 and 1977, and the contest became yawningly
insignificant. Commencing in 1979 a change in the format of the
matches expanded the British team to include professional golfers
from the European Continent. This change, coupled with the golf
boom of the '80s and '90s, turned the Ryder Cup into a war. The
1999 match featured a furious final day rally by the American team,
culminating in the victorious American team charging across the
final green in celebration of their victory. That celebration had
many golf purists shaking their head in disbelief.

MR. RYDER'S TROPHY is an attempt to recall the original intent of
the matches in a time before television and big money
professionalism began to take over professional sports. Durham has
followed a pattern common to contemporary works of golf fiction, a
plot centered on a mystical aura that allows characters a freedom
of interaction that they would not normally enjoy. GOLF IN THE
KINGDOM by Michael Murphy, THE LEGEND OF BAGGER VANCE by Steven
Pressfield, THE GREATEST PLAYER WHO NEVER LIVED and THE GREATEST
COURSE THAT NEVER WAS, both by J. Michael Veron, are examples of
this genre of golf fiction. By mixing fictional protagonists with
deceased golf legends and mystical golf spirits, an outlook
reflecting love and reverence for the spirit of the game of golf is
established. Indeed, golf becomes more than a game, it becomes an
inspiration for life itself. MR. RYDER'S TROPHY, in both style and
substance, is a worthy addition to this list.

The novel takes the reader to the spring of 1976, as Stephen and
Ann Winchester find themselves in England as the result of a job
assignment. The two avid golfers are invited to join the Verulam
Golf Club, an invitation they willingly accept. Verulam, an actual
club in St. Albans, England, was the home course of Samuel Ryder.
Ryder served as the Captain of the Club as well as the Mayor of St.
Albans. His portrait, along with numerous other items of Ryder Cup
memorabilia, graces the clubhouse at Verulam. After her inaugural
round at the club, Ann Winchester finds herself entranced by the
portrait and fascinated by the historical knowledge she acquires.
This enchantment culminates in long discussions with Ryder about
the Cup, the game of golf, and life in general. That Ryder has been
dead for nearly 40 years is a literary device that makes his
observations and opinions all the more captivating.

The events of September 11, 2001 brought about the postponement of
the Ryder Cup. It will be played this year, and every other year
thereafter. Only World War II caused a similar occurrence. As the
professional golfers from the United States and Europe once again
battle for the trophy, golfers and non-golfers will view this
sports contest in the context of world events. MR. RYDER'S TROPHY
offers insight into the goal that Samuel Ryder envisioned some 75
years ago when he established this event. His dream should not be
lost in the media frenzy of the Ryder Cup. While the hype
surrounding modern Ryder Cup might upset Samuel Ryder, the spirit
and competition between the nations and the golfers on the final
weekend of September would make him proud and honored that his gift
to professional golf has survived these many years.

Reviewed by Stuart Shiffman on January 22, 2011

Mr. Ryder's Trophy
by Shirley Dusinberre Durham

  • Publication Date: November 30, -0001
  • Genres: Nonfiction, Sports
  • Hardcover: 252 pages
  • Publisher: Gale Group
  • ISBN-10: 1585361119
  • ISBN-13: 9781585361113