Sam Torrance revels in the magic of the Ryder Cup

Just as Wimbledon has the capacity to make temporary tennis fans from spectators and television viewers who at most other times have no interest in the sport, so the Ryder Cup can stir the normally golf-averse to acquire at least a fleeting fascination with foursomes and fourballs, birdies and bogeys. 

It has a special appeal for some players, too, enabling them to escape from the insular, isolated pursuit of glory as an individual to work with familiar rivals towards a common goal, develop camaraderie and experience the singularly uplifting joy of shared success.

One who falls into that camp is Sam Torrance, who won 21 tournaments on the European Tour between 1976 and 1998 but will recall two moments in the Ryder Cup as the high points of his career.

The first came at The Belfry in 1985 when his 15ft birdie putt at the 18th clinched Europe’s first victory over the United States, ending a run of 13 consecutive wins by the Americans (one shared) since the last outright success by Great Britain in 1957.

The second came 17 years later, also at The Belfry, when he lifted the trophy as non-playing captain as Europe in a victory that helped heal the bitter wounds inflicted at Brookline two years earlier, when a hostile crowd and the ungentlemanly behaviour of some in the American camp left a unpleasant taste.

He shares only with Seve Ballesteros among European players the distinction of holing the winning putt and captaining a successful team at different Ryder Cups.

“Being captain is the thrill of a lifetime and the greatest job I’ve ever had,” Torrance said recently.

“There’s no other golf event like it for atmosphere -- every hole is like coming down the final fairway leading a major.”

Maybe it is because it took him until 1981 to make the team that the Ryder Cup assumed such importance for him as an individual.  Given that Torrance never won a major -- his fifth place at The Open in the same year as his Ryder Cup debut was to remain his highest finish -- it is fair to say that his role in the team event defined his career.

To coincide with this week’s 38th Ryder Cup at Celtic Manor in Wales, Mainstream has released An Enduring Passion, in which Torrance recalls every great moment in the two decades he spent pursuing glory in the competition and looks at how it has changed since he was trying to qualify as a player in the late 1970s.

He examines the tactics and techniques of the captains he played under and against, and tells how his experience as a player, and his vice-captaincy to Mark James at Brookline, shaped the way he led the team at The Belfry in 2002.

The 57-year-old Scot has one of the best-known voices in golf as a commentator for the BBC and his craggy features make him an instantly recognisable face and he acknowledges that it is the Ryder Cup above all else to which he owes his position in the game.

Follow this link to buy An Enduring Passion: My Ryder Cup Years

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