Tony Jacklin’s Ryder Cup journey: From no ropes on the fairways to stadium golf

The man who helped transform the Ryder Cup from mismatch to worldwide sporting phenomenon talks to PlanetSport ahead of this week’s match at Whistling Straits.

The transformation of the Ryder Cup over the last 70 years is astounding in itself, but the fact that one man has been at the heart of those changes is even more remarkable.

Ahead of this week's tussle between America and Europe Tony Jacklin has launched a new book, 'My Ryder Cup Journey', which charts his steps from the 1957 match to his captaincy triumphs and beyond.

Of course, the Lincolnshire-born golfer was not participating in that match 64 years ago, but he was taken to Lindrick by his father and it proved to be a turning point in his life.

"Lindrick was before we had roped off fairways," Jacklin told PlanetSport this week. "Dai Rees actually asked me to put his divot back in the ground and I touched his driver grip as he walked past!

"It inspired me. I immediately wanted to become a professional golfer. But we had no idea that day what the Ryder Cup would become. It's now a massive deal."

Between those giddy scenes of galleries spilling across the fairways and the modern spectacle of first tee stadiums the Ryder Cup has witnessed a rocky metamorphosis, and Jacklin tracks it all.

He made his debut in the mid-1960s, was involved in the famous Concession at the 1969 match, saw first-hand the chaos of the 1970s, was cast out of the team in 1981, and then returned to not only captain the team, but win the trophy and then defend it on American soil.

Since then he has looked on as the match he helped reinvigorate has become a mammoth sporting and corporate spectacle.

Let's take a look at five insights from the book before we ask Jacklin for his thoughts on this year's clash.

Jacklin on team psychology

"I often talk about the difference between confidence and bravado; that era (the 60s) was definitely a bravado era for our players."

"There's a difference between negative nervous emotion and positive nervous emotion, and my players couldn't wait to get out there (in 1983)."

Jacklin on bad American vibes

Jacklin had plenty of friends when he started out on the PGA Tour, Bert Yancey and Tom Weiskopf especially, and he remains very close to Jack Nicklaus.

But he also encountered lots of sniping and negative energy which fuelled his own desire and would also, later, stir Severiano Ballesteros.

It was not the only motivation for their Ryder Cup success in the 1980s - the pair were also furious with the European hierarchy - but it clearly rankled and with good reason.

"I played with Dan Sikes at Doral one year. I was leading going down the ninth, an island hole, in the final round and he turned round and said, 'I played with Tommy Aaron here last year. He was leading and put his ball in the water.' Sure enough, my ball ended up wet too."

"When the US Tour split in 1968 … Deane Beman explained what was to happen in the future and Dave Hill, who was sat next to me, suddenly decided to get on his feet and suggest that foreigners should not be allowed to play in the States. You can probably guess my response."

Jacklin on the state of the GB&I/European team in the bad old days

"Personally speaking, the most memorable thing about (the 1975 match) was losing the sole of my (official) shoe midway through the singles. If there was ever a moment when my self-esteem was affected at a Ryder Cup, it would be that one. It was a total embarrassment."

"Howard Clark told me about an incident before that start of the 1981 match at Walton Heath. Apparently, Europe's captain John Jacobs asked opposite skipper Dave Marr to go easy on his team. Howard said, 'I remember saying to someone, even our captain doesn't think we can win!'"

Jacklin on the importance of the right partner

Jacklin was a huge fan of Manuel Pinero, not only because he was "a terrier in match play" but also because he could handle his compatriot Ballesteros.

"He wasn't overawed by Seve. Jose Rivero, who was also on the 1985 team, was intimidated by his fellow Spaniard but Manuel was inspired by him."

Jacklin on the 1985 triumph

"The second day at The Belfry (in 1985) featured the turning point of the match - perhaps even the turning point in the long history of the competition - as Craig Stadler missed an absolute tiddler from two feet on the last green … Sam Torrance said there was bedlam in the team room when that match was halved … suddenly the momentum swung massively in our favour."

Jacklin on this week's match

"First thing. Whistling Straits is a big course, but we don't know yet what Steve Stricker has asked for from the course superintendents. It will be interesting to see if he's done something to favour his team. Davis Love III did that at Hazeltine, putting the pins in the middle of greens, cutting the rough down, and it worked brilliantly.

"The US team is full of new blood. Stricker picked everyone on tournament play, not much on match play. There are many unknown quantities in that 12. I'd have looked very closely at Billy Horschel and Kevin Kisner who are both confirmed match play experts.

"The other perspective is that Europe has a very strong nine with a lot of experience. The other positive is that those experienced Europeans not only play a lot over here in the States, but they are very respected here too. I expect a lot of strong pairings on the first day and a good start, as the Solheim Cup team proved, is so important.

"The more I look at Europe the more I like the team. Great captain's picks from Padraig HarringtonIan Poulter and Sergio Garcia love playing for a team, and Shane Lowry is a great holer-outer which could make him a fine match play performer.

"You can't ignore the big crowds, but get off to a quick start and you can quieten them down. I just hope it doesn't get ugly because this event is a great fight but it's never been war for me. You're trying to beat someone, but it's always just sport."

'Tony Jacklin: My Ryder Cup Journey', co-written with Tony Jimenez, is available online now from Amazon, Waterstones, WH Smith and other leading outlets.

READ MORE: From mismatch to glory: A short history of the Ryder Cup since 1981

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