Henry Cotton: Ryder Cup's "Captain Extraordinary"

Peter HughesSenior Analyst ISeptember 11, 2008

How the Ryder Cup has changed since 1953. The US team who played at Wentworth, captained by Lloyd Mangrum consisted of Jack Burke, Ted Kroll, Lloyd Mangrum, Sam Snead, Cary Middlecoff, Jim Turnesa, Walter Burkemo, Ed Oliver, Dale Douglas, and Jay Haas.

Great Britain & Ireland had Dai Rees, Harry Bradshaw, Fred Daly, Eric Brown, Harry Weetman, Max Faulkner, John Panton, Jimmy Adams, Peter Alliss and Bernard Hunt. The last couple were "rookies" and the non-playing captain was Henry Cotton.

The match played over Thursday and Friday had 36 hole foursomes on the first day to be followed with eight singles on Friday.

Cotton truly believed his team had an excellent chance of winning. To this end he assembled them on the Sunday prior to the fixture at Sunningdale GC, ensconced them in the Dormy House, employed top class caterers and used the course facilities to study his best options for the foursomes, which he considered to be vital for success. In 1953, Cotton had to pay most of the expenses incurred!

Early on Monday he made the decision to pair Harry Bradshaw with Fred Daly. Weetman & Alliss, Brown & Panton, Adams & Hunt followed the next day.

On Wednesday, prior to leaving for Wentworth, Fred Daly pleaded with his captain to be left out because he had a recurring problem with "the yips" and would be a hindrance to his great friend, Harry.

Cotton totally refused his pleas and stated categorically both would be playing at No. 4 on the team sheet. His reasoning would be revealed later!

Fred Daly stood only 5-foot-7 and to gain length off the tee, John Letters, who made his clubs, extended the shaft of his driver by eight inches. It meant Daly had a very pronounced body sway on the backswing with his head moving substantially to the right at the same time. However, in the hitting area everything returned to the norm!

Harry Bradshaw played hurling as a youth and so developed this grip when he converted to golf. It was called "two fisted", the right hand completely over the top of the left and as he was rather portly, some called his swing, agricultural.

The US won the first three matches easily, but Daly & Bradshaw beat the strongest US pairing of Burkemo & Middlecoff by one hole.

The next day proved Cotton's thinking was, as they say today, "out of the box."

Daly beat Kroll 9&7, Brown beat Mangrum by 2 holes, Weetman beat Snead 1 up, Bradshaw beat Haas 3&2 and Hunt halved with Douglas.

The US won by one match, and if Bernard Hunt and Peter Alliss had not suffered from  stage fright the result could have been reversed.

The captain's strategy was basic: play the two Irishmen with their idiosyncrasies against the American top foursome, hope for a win and leave the visitors to ponder how this happened!

It very nearly proved to be successful and clearly illustrates how necessary it is to have a good leader.