Aug. 07, 1995
Aug. 07, 1995

Table of Contents
Aug. 7, 1995


The old man, white-haired and skinny as a flagstick,
materialized suddenly from the crowd, catching Lanny Wadkins by
surprise. Wadkins, captain of this year's U.S. Ryder Cup team,
was hurrying to tee off in a practice round before last week's
Ideon Classic at Pleasant Valley Country Club near Worcester,
Mass. At first he figured the elderly gent was just another avid
fan wanting to quiz him about the Sept. 22-24 matches between
the U.S. and Europe. Then Wadkins noticed that the old man was
clutching an ancient portfolio filled with grainy photos and
faded autographs.

This is an article from the Aug. 7, 1995 issue Original Layout

"He told me the first Ryder Cup matches were held at the
Worcester Country Club in 1927," Wadkins recalled a couple of
days later. "I didn't know that until then. And then he told me
he had been Walter Hagen's caddie during those matches. I said,
'Wow.' He showed me a picture, pointing out Hagen and himself."

After a few moments, before Wadkins could get a name and
address, the old man and his scrapbook vanished. But while this
ghost of Ryder Cups past never did reappear, the specter of this
year's Ryder Cup never left Pleasant Valley. The name of the
game at the Ideon Classic was Ryder Cup points, not that the
event needed another name. Since its debut as the Carling Open
in 1965, the tournament, which you may know as the New England
Classic, has gone through more name changes than Roseanne, the
Ideon being number 11. (In case you were wondering, Ideon is a
Florida-based credit card service company.) Last week's renewal
was won by Fred Funk, whose 16-under-par 268 included a 63 in
the second round. It was his second Tour victory.

Of course, Funk was also an apt way to describe the
posttournament mood of the seven leading Ryder Cup candidates
who came to Pleasant Valley hoping to finish somewhere in the
top 10 and thereby earn what could be crucial points in the Cup
standings. Under a system that no doubt was dreamed up by the
same people who help the IRS with their tax forms, the Ryder Cup
team consists of 12 players-the 10 who have amassed the most
points in the standings and two more who are picked by the
captain (Wadkins, in this year's case). The battle for points
began with last year's Mercedes Championships, the first event
of 1994, and will end with next week's PGA Championship at
Riviera in Los Angeles. The way the point system works, a player
can earn as few as 10 points for finishing 10th in a regular
Tour event and as many as 300 for winning a major.

As last week's field teed off, only Corey Pavin, who has a
Cleveland Indians-type lead in the standings, had officially
made the team, although Wadkins figured the next five-Tom
Lehman, Davis Love III, Phil Mickelson, Jay Haas and Loren
Roberts-were locks. From there, however, it got dicey. The way
Wadkins saw it, seventh-place Ben Crenshaw, who along with all
of the above skipped the Ideon, was "probably safe," and
eighth-place Peter Jacobsen was "O.K., but he's still on the
borderline." To safeguard his place in the standings, or even
improve it, Jacobsen was a late entry in the tournament, which
is a valley (albeit a Pleasant one) more than a peak in the PGA
Tour mountain range. The big social event of the week is an
old-fashioned New England clambake for the players and their
families. The unofficial tournament pet is Mulligan, a toy
poodle that belongs to the event's head honcho, Ted Mingolla.

"We're never going to be glamorous or glitzy; we're down-home,"
said Mingolla, who inherited the course-and the tournament-when
his father, "Cuz" Mingolla, died in 1979. "We like to think they
come here because they enjoy it, but, no question, it helps us
in Ryder Cup years to be one of the last tournaments where the
players can earn points."

Of the 17 players immediately below Jacobsen in the standings,
Mark Calcavecchia (ninth), Kenny Perry (10th), Jeff Maggert
(12th), Brad Faxon (tied with Lee Janzen for 14th), Bill Glasson
(17th) and Bob Estes (24th) all came to Pleasant Valley hoping
to improve their positions. Paul Azinger showed up to help
convince Wadkins that he would make an excellent choice as a
captain's pick. The stay-at-homes taking the greatest risk of
losing ground were Jim Gallagher Jr. (11th), Scott Hoch (13th),
Janzen and John Daly (16th). Said Calcavecchia, who has played
on three Ryder Cup teams, "Janzen and Gallagher took off, and
I'm taking off next week [from the Buick Open]. The Ryder Cup is
pretty much the ultimate, and I'd like to make the team again,
but we all need a break when we get tired of golf. The way you
have to look at it is, 'If I make it, I make it, and if I don't,
I don't.' It would be a mistake to get your brains beat out just
so you can make the Ryder Cup team."

But each Ryder Cup aspirant's brains took a battering at what
turned out to be Unpleasant Valley. Who knows why? Maybe it was
a combination of the pressure, the heat and the tricky par-71
course, which is tree-intensive and roller-coaster hilly. Faxon,
a local by virtue of his residency in nearby Barrington, shot
74-69 and missed the cut, which was two under. Perry, Maggert,
Glasson and Estes made it by a single shot but were never
threats for the top 10. Only Jacobsen, who finished tied for
22nd, and Calcavecchia, who came in tied for 27th, even remotely
resembled Ryder Cup players. Said Faxon before making his early
exit, "I've got to win one of the next two tournaments. I need
some serious points."

While all this high drama was happening out there in the
country, the Worcester Country Club, where there's a Ryder Cup
room in the clubhouse, was putting on its member-guest. Nobody
is exactly sure why the Worcester Country Club became the site
of the first Ryder Cup, but it had something to do with two
things: The course had proved its mettle when it hosted the 1925

U.S. Open (won by Willie MacFarlane over Bobby Jones in a
playoff), and it was just 40 miles from Boston Harbor, enabling
the British team, captained by Ted Ray, to hold down travel
expenses. Indeed, the venture, which stemmed from an informal
match between U.S. and British pros in 1926 at Wentworth, almost
died at birth because of the high cost of crossing the Atlantic.
But because of funds raised by Golf Illustrated, a weekly
magazine, and contributed by Samuel Ryder, a seed magnate from
St. Albans, England, who also donated the trophy, the nine-man
British team was able to make the six-day crossing on the

Alas for the British, they were so seasick upon their arrival in
Worcester that the Americans gallantly offered to postpone the
competition for a week. The British declined the offer, which,
in retrospect, wasn't such a jolly good idea. The Americans, led
by the dashing Hagen, won easily, 91√ö2 to 21√ö2 . In a cable to
the Daily Express of London, Ray wrote, "I consider that we can
never hope to beat the Americans unless we learn to putt. This
lesson should be taken to heart by British golfers." Even in
victory Hagen was indignant because some of his decisions had
been second-guessed. "Never again," quoth the Haig haughtily
when asked about serving as captain in the future. That turned
out to be something less than a Shermanesque declaration,
considering that Hagen agreed to be captain of the next five
U.S. teams.

Today much of the sportswear and equipment available in the
Worcester pro shop carries a logo identifying the club as home
to the first Ryder Cup. Ray Lajoie, head pro since 1970, began
selling the stuff years ago without getting permission from the
PGA of America, which runs the event. Lajoie is exceedingly
proud of this defiant act, but it represents his only triumph in
dealings with the PGA. A year or so ago Lajoie suggested that
the 1995 Ryder Cup team play an exhibition at the club to
commemorate the '27 victory. After all, Worcester is a Donald
Ross-designed course, same as this year's venue, Oak Hill
Country Club in Rochester, N.Y. But Lajoie was turned down on
the grounds that since the players would have to pay their own
expenses, the PGA can't require extra duty from them.

In addition Lajoie's letter requesting eight tickets to the
Rochester competition was returned to him with a rejection slip,
forcing him to find another way-golf pros always have a backup
angle, right?-to get the long-sold-out ducats. "You'd think
they'd take into consideration that the thing started here,"
Lajoie grumbled last week. While at Oak Hill he hopes to
persuade the PGA to somehow include Worcester in the plans for
the 1999 Ryder Cup, which will be held at the Country Club in

Lajoie might get a vote of support from Wadkins, who hasn't
played on eight Ryder Cup teams without gaining an appreciation
of golf history. Last week Wadkins, whose game has been on the
wane since he helped the U.S. win the Ryder Cup at the Belfry in
1993, didn't make the cut in the Ideon Classic (which, by the
way, is looking for a new sponsor and will have its 12th name
next year). But the captain didn't seem to regret his 72-69 as
much as his failure to get more information on the mysterious
old-timer who said he had caddied for Hagen. Not even the area's
oldest and most knowledgeable experts knew who he was or how to
find him. The Worcester newspaper, the Telegram & Gazette, had
nothing in its files about who had caddied for the great Hagen
in 1927. Somebody said he had heard that the old man's surname
was Kelly, which, of course, is as common in the Worcester area
as fir trees and clam chowder.

When it was suggested that maybe the fellow could be brought to
Oak Hill as a sort of honorary team caddie, assuming that he can
be found and his claim verified, Wadkins nodded thoughtfully.
What could it hurt? Why, heck, maybe Kelly, or whatever his name
is, could even show a Pavin or a Mickelson how the Haig did it
back in that golden year when Babe Ruth clouted 60 and Lindbergh
flew the Atlantic.

"It was kind of neat," said Wadkins of his encounter with the
old man. "I just wish I hadn't been in such a rush."

Did Hagen's caddie make any suggestions about who Wadkins should
add to the team with his captain's picks? Maybe Fred Couples, if
he's healthy? Curtis Strange, who won a U.S. Open title at Oak
Hill and was fifth in a PGA there? Or how about John Daly, who
used to have a Hagenesque thirst for a good party before he gave
up booze?

"No," said Wadkins smiling. "He was good about not coaching me,
and I appreciated it."

TWO COLOR PHOTOS: PHOTOGRAPHS BY JACQUELINE DUVOISINAzinger (with towel) sweated out his also-ran status while native son Faxon (above) bid to be part of Hagen's legacy. [Brad Faxon; Paul Azinger burying face in towel]B/W PHOTO: BETTMANN [See caption above--Walter Hagen saluting]TWO COLOR PHOTOS: PHOTOGRAPHS BY JACQUELINE DUVOISINCalcavecchia (below) and Jacobsen played to protect their tenuous Ryder Cup positions. [Mark Calcavecchia; Peter Jacobsen]COLOR PHOTO: PHOTOGRAPHS BY JACQUELINE DUVOISINSharon Funk concurs that Fred's 63 made the Ideon his baby. [Fred Funk and Sharon Funk]

This is an article from
the Aug. 7, 1995 issue