When Europe take on America on the Albatros golf course at Le Golf National in Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines, southwest of Paris, at the end of this month (28-30 September), one thing will go largely unnoticed. Thousands of words will be spoken and written about the Ryder Cup, with hundreds of reporters commenting, but it will be hard to find anyone who talks about the man behind the competition – Samuel Ryder.
Even fewer will know of the strong faith and whole-life beliefs that formed him.
Samuel Ryder was an entrepreneur, working in a successful family gardening business. Early on, however, he noticed that the general public could not afford to take up an interest in gardening. So, he came up with idea of selling penny packets of seeds through mail order. This simple business idea became a huge financial and global success.
His love of golf came later as, aged 49, his health was suffering. Close to a breakdown, he visited his doctor who advised him to relax more. Sam Ryder then consulted his church minister who invited him out to the golf course and his love of the sport was born.
A few years later, his business success and his love for golf led to him donating a gold cup for the first official match between teams representing Great Britain and America. And so, in 1927, the Ryder Cup was born.
But what can we learn from the life of Samuel Ryder?
He believed his faith should influence his working life.
He was a pioneer for paying sick pay to his employees, believing that no one should be penniless or hungry because they were too unwell to work. Some of his peers warned him he would be exploited and his business would fail if he paid sick pay, but he proved them wrong.
He believed his faith should affect his role in the community.
He supported many local charities and regularly opened his home in St Albans for fund-raising events and fetes; he even became mayor at one point.
He believed faith should have an effect on his leisure time.
He promoted the idea, for others as well as himself, of having a healthy outdoor activity and relaxing time away from work. For Ryder himself, of course, this meant golf!
In our churches too, we believe being a Christian is far more than just a Sunday thing.
Every Sunday we are trying to equip people to live a life of faith in such a way that it positively affects every day and every aspect of our lives.
The story of Sam Ryder is largely untold. There are small sections mentioning him in a few of the many Ryder Cup history books, and a great biography of his life: Samuel Ryder – the man behind the Ryder Cup by Peter Fry. In our churches, however, there might just be an opportunity this month to mention Samuel Ryder’s whole-life approach to faith as a timely illustration, and to learn from his example.