Sunday, September 22

50th Anniversary of 'The Concession': Peter Busby's Memories of the 1969 Ryder Cup



Peter Busby contacted me earlier this year about Draw in the Dunes, my 2014 book on the 1969 Ryder Cup and the famous concession that linked Jack Nicklaus and Tony Jacklin. Peter graciously shared his memories of that event, published below.

By Peter Busby

Peter Busby is the Captain of Royal Birkdale Golf Club.

IN 1969 I WAS A 'RUNNY NOSED' 21 year old articled clerk training to be a Chartered Accountant with KPMG in my home town of Birmingham.

I recall in the summer of '69 that the British publics' interest in the Ryder Cup was most certainly buoyed by Tony Jacklin's win at Lytham St Annes in The Open after many years of not having a British winner. I had recently taken up the game and can remember the tv coverage and commentary on BBC TV that afternoon delivered by the great Henry Longhurst.

The last British PGA event prior to the Ryder Cup in '69, The Dunlop Masters, was held at Little Aston Golf Club in my City of Birmingham. The professional at my golf club Harborne, a few miles across the city, was Peter J Butler, so my father and I attended. Professional golfers in those days were affiliated to golf clubs and were not independent as they are today, for their main job was 'keeping the shop' and if they were good enough playing the limited tournament circuit as it was then.

My what a host of professionals I saw in action. There was the great Peter Thompson, who won his first and last of five Open wins at Royal Birkdale, among others.

Interestingly returning to Little Aston I think that only one member of the USA Team played being Billy Casper. I recall standing with my father on the practice area at Little Aston watching Casper practice, his accuracy with his irons was so good most of the time his caddie, who has been dispatched half way down the practice area, was collecting his shots with the minimum of movement left or right into a large ball bag 'on the bounce'! Then at the end of the practice session Casper pulled out his driver, unfortunately the practice area was not long enough so Casper's strikes were to disappear deep into the woods, but with a heavy American accent and to the delight of the crowd that had gathered, he yelled 'watch out squirrels these ain't no nuts'.

I also remember as an aside that at the end of the tournament an American trick-shot golfer by the name of Paul Hahn put on his show. Halfway through he noticed that Tony Jacklin was in the crowd watching and he invited Jacklin to come over and hit a golf ball from the top of a three foot high tee peg. You guessed it, he failed on the first attempt but managed to hit it on the second attempt!

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Now turning to the Ryder Cup match itself and my memories
of my day there.

It was Friday night September 19th, my father had returned home from his week's work and as usual he immediately sat down in his armchair, he picked up the Birmingham Evening Mail newspaper and turned immediately to the back page because that's where he could read the latest news about his favourite football team (soccer in the US) Aston Villa. After a few minutes he said to me 'your man Butler is not doing so well in this 'ere Ryder Cup'. Butler had indeed had a bad day on the Friday losing his afternoon fourball match to Casper and Frank Beard, this following on from his foursome defeat on Thursday afternoon to Nicklaus and Sikes. I said, 'I know Dad'.

It was at this moment that Dad suggested that we travel to Royal Birkdale on the Saturday morning in order to support him.

What a wonderful day we had on the majestic links course of Royal Birkdale. There are three distinct memories that I hold, in addition to the main one, that of Jack Nicklaus' concession which has to be the greatest act of sportsmanship ever known in golf if not sport the world over.

The first was reading in the Saturday morning press, on our way north, that it was felt that because of the constant drubbing of the GB&I team by the USA that time may be being called on the event as public interest was on the wane in Great Britain. Oh how important that gesture of Nicklaus was in saving it!

The second was watching the Irish golfer Christy O'Connor Snr putt out. He had attracted a group of six Irish priests in support and if on a count of 1,2,3 all sxi Priests in unison crossed themselves, no doubt seeking godly intervention! It was rather like watching a string of dancing girls in an American burlesque show lined up across the front of the stage demonstrating their 'kicks' in unison!

The third was standing at the 18th hole waiting for the final match of the competition to come down the fairway. Such was the state of the Ryder Cup competition in those days that there were no stands around the 18th, just a picket fence. 

Suddenly there was a terrific roar from the 17th hole and the crowd sensed that Jacklin had won that hole and drawn level with Nicklaus. A few seconds after the roar I felt a sharp tap on my shoulder and in a deep Texan drawl I was asked  'what's going on bud?' It was the young USA team member Ray Floyd who had drifted out of the changing rooms, standing alongside us, in with the crowd, again such was the competition in those days.

What happened to Butler: He won both of his Saturday singles matches defeating Floyd and Dale Douglass, and for my father he dined out for many months to come on the fact that he had assisted in GB&I's 'draw in the dunes'!

And what happened to that 'runny nosed' articled clerk?

Well, I am proud to tell you that on 23rd February 2019 at the AGM of Royal Birkdale Golf Club I become Captain of the Club for 2019.

Who would have guessed that on my fleeting visit from Birmingham to Royal Birkdale all of those years ago in 1969!

What a quirk of fate and luck.

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