The orig­i­nal Ry­der Cup mir­a­cle – and what might have been this week

Bernard Gal­lacher re­calls his fa­mous 1995 vic­tory on the day we should have been pre­par­ing for another sup­posed mis­match

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Sport - By James Cor­ri­gan GOLF COR­RE­SPON­DENT Bernard Gal­lacher is an am­bas­sador for Golf Care (golf­care.co.uk) the UK’s No1 golf in­surance provider.

Bernard Gal­lacher does not sub­scribe to the com­mon con­sen­sus that if the Ry­der Cup had gone ahead this week the team in blue and gold would have left Wis­con­sin black and blue. In­deed, he be­lieves it could have been yet another case of the United Flakes of Amer­ica.

The bi­en­nial dust-up was due to be­gin to­mor­row but the pan­demic led to the 12-month post­pone­ment, which was an­nounced in July. That means Padraig Har­ring­ton is play­ing in the first round at the Ir­ish Open at Gal­gorm Cas­tle to­day in­stead of nam­ing his four­somes pair­ings for the open­ing ses­sion at Whistling Straits.

But de­spite the Amer­i­cans win­ning 11 of the past 13 ma­jors and boast­ing eight of the world’s top 10 play­ers, Gal­lacher feels the de­lay is not nec­es­sar­ily a pos­i­tive from a Euro­pean per­spec­tive.

“The Amer­i­cans re­ally would not have wanted to play with­out fans as they’ve come to rely heav­ily on that rau­cous sup­port over the years,” Gal­lacher, 71, says. “But any­way, I think it’s a shame it’s not on as it might have been like a Ry­der Cup from back in the 80s, when the Amer­i­cans just turned up with all their ma­jor cham­pi­ons and ex­pected to win – and then re­mem­bered we had a few great play­ers as well.

“Like Tony [Jack­lin] in his cap­tain’s speeches, Har­ring­ton, would prob­a­bly have said, ‘Right boys, they’re over­whelm­ing favourites, they’re at home and we are go­ing to roll up our sleeves, and get stuck in and see how good they are’.

“And the Amer­i­cans don’t seem to like it when the Euro­peans get stuck in. They look aghast when we also birdie a hole to get a half with them. ‘Yeah, we’re not bad at this – we also make our liv­ings from it’. For some rea­son that gets to them.

“It was like that in Paris a few years ago. They won the first ses­sion 3-1 and af­ter that, when Europe re­fused to fold, it was all down­hill for [Jim] Furyk’s men. Their heads went down. Brooks Koepka, their su­per­star, couldn’t hit a fair­way and no­body wanted to play with Patrick Reed. And I’m think­ing, ‘This just doesn’t go on in the Euro­pean camp’. Just think back to Seve [Balles­teros] and Nick [Faldo] at Oak Hill.”

To­day is the 25th an­niver­sary of Gal­lacher lead­ing Europe to a 14½-13½ vic­tory in Rochester, Up­state New York. One of the more dra­matic fin­ishes saw the US lose on home soil for just the sec­ond time and de­nied their first hat-trick in the Europe era. For Gal­lacher, the ven­er­a­ble Scot, it was vin­di­ca­tion af­ter his two pre­vi­ous de­feats as cap­tain.

“In to­day’s cul­ture of football man­agers get­ting sacked af­ter a few months in the job, I would never have been given another chance,” he says. “To be truth­ful I wasn’t keen. Ken Schofield [the for­mer Euro­pean Tour chief ex­ec­u­tive] asked me to stay on, but when we lost nar­rowly at home in ’93 at The Bel­fry, I thought that was it. We’d been beaten on the last green in ’91 at Ki­awah [Is­land] and I won­dered if I was a bad omen.

“But then I got a let­ter sent to the pro shop at Went­worth [where he was the head pro for 25 years] and it was from one of the top play­ers who I re­spect a lot. I won’t re­veal who. It said, ‘We need a cap­tain who’s done the job over there, be­cause this is go­ing to be tough’. So I re­con­sid­ered.”

At 9-7 down go­ing into the sin­gles, the por­tents seemed writ­ten. Amer­ica had not lost af­ter hold­ing the ad­van­tage go­ing into the fi­nal day since the sec­ond match in 1929.

“Every­body knows about ‘The Mir­a­cle of Me­d­i­nah’ [the suc­cess­ful Europe fight­back from 10-6 down in 2012], but this was a mi­nor mir­a­cle in it­self,” said Gal­lacher. “Philip [Walton] got the win­ning point but ev­ery­one re­mem­bers Faldo’s as cru­cial, chip­ping out side­ways and back­ing him­self to get a par four on the last.

“I al­most felt sorry for Cur­tis [Strange] be­cause there was some­thing about Faldo. He never looked at the op­po­si­tion, but he had a pres­ence that put his ri­vals off. Greg Nor­man ex­pe­ri­enced this at the 1996 Masters. It was nothing Faldo did in­ten­tion­ally. He just went about his busi­ness. Con­cen­trat­ing on him­self. No­body else.

“But that day all the emo­tion came out. Seve and Nick hug­ging on the 18th green, both cry­ing. No, they were not great pals, they did not go out for din­ner to­gether, but there was that mu­tual re­spect. And Seve had been play­ing so poorly that, deep down, we knew he was fin­ished as a Ry­der Cup player. And Seve was so pa­tri­otic he didn’t want to go out think­ing he’d cost us the win. Faldo felt that. It was a great scene that, to me, summed up Europe in the Ry­der Cup.”

And so the party went through the night – ex­cept not in the tra­di­tional man­ner. “It was all a bit an­ti­cli­mac­tic,” Gal­lacher says. “Of course, the Amer­i­cans did not want to know and we were all ex­hausted. We were on Con­corde back early the next morn­ing, so we went to bed early.

“The wives stayed up, though. Les­ley [Gal­lacher’s wife], Suzanne Tor­rance, Car­men Balles­teros, Jane James, Bev Clark – they did the cel­e­brat­ing for us.

“The thing is, the core of that team had de­feated the US a few times by then and were used to it. Although I do have to say that beat­ing the Amer­i­cans never gets old.”

‘The Amer­i­cans would not have wanted to play with­out fans as they rely on that rau­cous sup­port’

‘Seve and Nick both cry­ing and hug­ging on the 18th green was a great scene that summed it up for me’

Vic­to­ri­ous: Europe’s Ry­der Cup team, led by Bernard Gal­lacher (cen­tre of back row), cel­e­brate clinch­ing the 31st match in 1995 at the Oak Hill Coun­try Club, New York. Pos­ing with the tro­phy (back row, left to right) are play­ers Philip Walton, Mark James, Sev­e­ri­ano Balles­teros, Sam Tor­rance, Nick Faldo, Bern­hard Langer, David Gil­ford, Colin Mont­gomerie and (front row, left to right) Ian Woos­nam, Costantino Rocca, Per-Ul­rik Jo­hans­son and Howard Clark

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