Despite racism at his peak, my current Ryder Cup captain is a Hero of Europe

When I played my first tournament in Birmingham and the Europeans lost, as they tend to do, I went to the back of the bus. A Black man was taken off the playing field…

Despite racism at his peak, my current Ryder Cup captain is a Hero of Europe

When I played my first tournament in Birmingham and the Europeans lost, as they tend to do, I went to the back of the bus. A Black man was taken off the playing field on tour.

My early years were testing. I was left out of school regularly, I was exploited and scared of my own shadow. I was the victim of vicious exclusion but I always thought that if I was brave enough, I could create my own destiny.

After an encounter in Oxford which I lost with such bile that it permanently stained my character and removed me from the circle of all friends, I thought my days were over.

My professional career was only saved after a tragic turn of events, and a stroke of luck that allowed me to complete my education at Cambridge University. I never wanted to represent Europe on the Ryder Cup team ever again and never have I wanted to in my entire career.

Yet it was through this experience that I learned a great deal about the British public and their understanding of the game.

The first European team captain in the competition’s 108-year history was Nick Faldo. Nick is a British man and a hero to many Europeans.

Nick wanted me and I wanted him. He recognized my potential and that of our other young African players but the British public didn’t want me there. Nick’s name doesn’t appear on any stadiums in Europe so this rejection of me had profound consequences for me.

All I had ever known in the pursuit of the “driving line” — to feel a mixture of pressure and pride as I shot rounds of 70 and 72, three-under par, and secured what were, until then, our best British performances — was suddenly destroyed.

I was, at that moment, a complete disaster. I felt responsible. I knew I had let Nick down. He wanted me and I wanted him. I had played a grand total of 13 rounds in Europe during my college career. I had to prove to him that I could do the job and he had to convince me that it was worth me trying.

He tried, but I doubted him.

And then on the morning of the first day at the 1983 Ryder Cup, Nick Faldo came into my dorm room and told me what had happened. The English media were not amused.

I was literally sipping my morning coffee when I heard Nick shouting to Nick Faldo. I had just stood up from my table and Nick was going through his old Royal Bardon shirt to destroy it. He looked me in the eye and I walked out to see what he wanted me to do.

I had in my hand a letter telling Nick that I wanted to play in the Ryder Cup and that my golf was good enough for that competition.

He asked me to sign it but I refused to do so and said I needed to think. Nick said that would only take longer. I would have to go to Europe and convince the press and the fans and tell them I was ready. Nick told me if I was brave enough, I could do it.

I told Nick it was nothing more than a prank. But he didn’t believe me. He knew I wanted to play and he knew that I could make a huge difference to European golf.

Nick said I had to play.

Leave a Comment