Town's historic link to former Ryder Cup success

The famous 16th at Southport & Ainsdale - known as 'Gumbleys'

The famous 16th at Southport & Ainsdale - known as 'Gumbleys' - Credit: AndyBowenHG, CC BY-SA 4.0

The 1933 Ryder Cup at Southport was a memorable tournament for Sidmouth-born golfer Syd Easterbrook. With this year’s renewal starting today, Friday, I thought it would be a good time to look back at the 1933 match, especially with the Sidmouth connection. And it wasn’t just Easterbrook who had the local connection. J H Taylor, the non-playing captain, was also from Devon. He helped to design Sidmouth Golf Course as well as other Devon courses at Bigbury and Axe Cliff.

Sydney John Philip Easterbrook was born in Sidmouth on January 22, 1905. As a professional golfer, he won the Irish Open in 1934 and was a member of the Great Britain Ryder Cup team in both 1931 and 1933. Syd had two brothers, Algy (1899–1960) and Cyril (1901–1975) who were also golfers. Cyril was the professional at Sidmouth for many years and his wife was the caterer. Their son, Deven, was an exceptional golfer who, in 1971, founded the Easterbrook Eaton accountancy business in the town.

The 1933 Ryder Cup team was captained by the previously mentioned J H Taylor, Britain's first non-playing captain. He was a rigid disciplinarian and did not get on at all well with the flamboyant Walter Hagen, who almost accidentally hit him with a practice swing on the first tee. You can actually see that moment on film on YouTube. The windy conditions were more to Britain's liking, but, as was the case in 1931, the team were without Henry Cotton as he was not resident in the UK. On home turf, Britain were a strong proposition, though the foursomes matches were particularly tight. After the first day Great Britain and Ireland led by 2.5 to 1.5.

Nowadays the match is over three days with 28 points on offer. Back in 1933 it was over two days with 12 points on offer. The singles were played on the second day over 36 holes. They proved to be very exciting. When the morning 18 holes had been completed each side was ahead in three matches and two matches were all square. As the afternoon rounds proceeded, the USA seemed to be gaining the upper hand. But Britain fought back strongly and soon the whole match was level yet again. Only the match between Easterbrook and Shute remained on the course. They were all square with just one hole to play. Many thousands of spectators now lined the fairway on both sides, and driving from the 18th tee was like playing down a narrow corridor. Both drives finished in bunkers and both players took three to reach the green. The balls lay almost equidistant from the hole, but it was Shute to putt first. He went boldly for the hole from about five yards and missed, and his ball went about six feet beyond the hole. Easterbrook’s putt for a four also missed but his ball lay only two feet from the hole. If Shute holed his six-footer the match would have probably been halved and the USA would have retained the cup. Shute missed and Easterbrook holed his putt. The Ryder Cup had been regained by Britain.

Syd Easterbrook died in Sidmouth on January 30, 1975. He left a legacy that is well worth remembering. Perhaps in the future stories will appear in the Herald about the likes of Mary King and Dom Bess and their successes on the international sporting stage!

A couple of other things to mention this week. I was very sorry to hear that former Sidmouth cricket umpire Richard Yarwood had passed away. He was affectionately known as Trigger, much to his own amusement. His funeral is at the parish church on Tuesday, October 5 at 1pm.

Finally, whilst playing golf at Axe Cliff last week I had my closest ever encounter with a peregrine falcon. A fleeting dart above the cliffs was both spectacular and exciting. What magnificent birds they are.

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