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They just don’t make characters like Ted Ray in golf anymore

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Colorful personalities on the professional tours have become a very rare thing these days. Occasionally, characters like Seve and John Daly have come along and added a bit of personality to what can only be otherwise classed as the somewhat boring, stereotypical golfer profile. Today, Bryson DeChambeau with his Hogan hat and outlandishness is about as entertaining as it gets. It seems that the media has played a big role with golfers keeping their heads down. Showing a personality or having an opinion nearly always ends in trouble for the player. It seems that our forefathers in this game had much bigger personalities, and worried less about what the world thought of them.

One of the biggest and most colorful characters of the game was the Englishman Ted Ray. Born Edward Rivers Ray in 1877, Ted was one of several top players to come from the Isle of Jersey, off the coast of England. He followed his idol Harry Vardon into professional golf, and became one of the top players of his time over a 30-year period. He was probably best known for his role in the 1912 U.S. Open, playing with Harry Vardon in a playoff along with the historic winner Francis Ouimet. You may recall Ray portrayed in the Disney movie “The Greatest Game Ever Played.” In one of the scenes, he was depicted in a bar fulfilling a drunken bet to drive a ball through a telephone directory, which of course, he duly obliged.

Ray was a towering, stocky man who was known for his prodigious power off the tee (think John Daly). He had a philosophy reflected in the advice he once gave a golfer who wanted to hit the ball farther: “Hit it a bloody sight harder, mate!”

He favored an attacking style (think Phil), and had to develop phenomenal recovery skills to be able to compete (think Seve). He played with a pipe invariably clenched between his teeth, and usually wore a felt trilby hat, plus fours, waistcoat and flapping jacket, making him a good target for the cartoonists of the day. And he only had six clubs in his bag, including the driver and putter; so that only left four irons, his favorite of which was his niblick (his wedge). He developed a reputation for the ability to play a variety of niblick shots in a major tournament conditions, and his recoveries with that club from seemingly impossible places had to be seen to be believed.

TedRayGolfDonaghy

This propensity for hard hitting made Ray prone to wild, often disastrous shots, since he also sometimes swayed and heaved noticeably. These faults aside, his game lasted well, mainly through his fine rhythm and recovery skills. He also possessed a delicate touch around the greens. Here is how Harry Vardon, in his book, “How to Play Golf”, describes Ray:

“Edward Ray is a man I like to watch on the Links. He defies so many accepted principles of the game; he is so very nearly a complete set of laws to himself. He sways appreciably and heaves at the ball. He is a master at recovering the right position at the moment of impact after having moved his head and body during the backward swing in a degree that would spell disaster to almost anyone else. He is the brilliant exception to the safe rule. As he brings his club down … his tremendous lunge brings your heart into your mouth lest he should miss the ball. You wonder where the ball will go in the event of such a catastrophe … (however) … at the psychological moment he has done everything correctly…”

He was unusual in that he was one of the first professional golfers who actually traveled extensively. He would go away for months at a time to America and travel across the country playing in exhibition matches, which were backed by wagers. He was adored by fans for his daring play, friendly, genial manner and optimistic spirit. And he had a good track record to back up his play. From 1908 to 1925, he was a powerful force in world golf, winning both The Open (1912 in Muirfield) and U.S. Open (1920 Inverness Club in Ohio).

There were giants in those days, and Ted was one of them.

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Mark Donaghy is a writer and author from Northern Ireland, living in the picturesque seaside town of Portstewart. He is married to Christine and they have three boys. Mark is a "golf nut," and is lucky to be a member of a classic links, Portstewart Golf Club. At college he played for the Irish Universities golf team, and today he still deludes himself that he can play to that standard. He recently released Caddy Attitudes: 'Looping' for the Rich and Famous in New York. It recounts the life experiences of two young Irish lads working as caddies at the prestigious Shinnecock Hills course in the Hamptons. Mark has a unique writing style, with humorous observations of golfers and their caddies, navigating both the golf course and their respective attitudes. Toss in the personal experiences of a virtually broke couple of young men trying to make a few bucks and their adventures in a culture and society somewhat unknown to them... and you have Caddy Attitudes. From scintillating sex in a sand trap to the comparison of societal status with caddy shack status, the book will grab the attention of anyone who plays the game. Caddy Attitudes is available on Amazon/Kindle and to date it has had excellent reviews.

15 Comments

15 Comments

  1. Bill Williams

    Mar 9, 2017 at 7:29 am

    As several have pointed out already, Ray & Vardon lost to Ouimet in the 1913 US Open at The Country Club Brookline not 1912.

    There is a book coming out later this year entitled “Ted Ray – The Forgotten Golfer” which chronicles his life and his achievements. But for Vardon, Braid and Taylor those achievements would have been far more. But with two majors to his name he has still been overlooked for induction into the World Golf Hall of Fame.

  2. David

    Jun 7, 2016 at 10:57 am

    Swinging a golf club in a wool coat. Wow. I’d like to see today’s players try that and see what it would do to their swings. They’d figure it out, of course, but their swings would look nowhere near the same!

  3. adan

    Jun 6, 2016 at 9:37 am

    I seriously doubt that there aren’t any big personalities out on tour but in an era of overly sensitive corporate sponsors and political correctness, we won’t see someone like that for a long time.

  4. Double Mocha Man

    Jun 3, 2016 at 10:15 pm

    I have never seen an entry on GolfWRX that had zero “shanks”.

  5. Dave

    Jun 3, 2016 at 4:23 pm

    Great article . Would like to see more of these.

  6. Ronald Montesano

    Jun 3, 2016 at 1:12 pm

    1912 US Open-Country Club of Buffalo…now known as Grover Cleveland golf course. John J. McDermott was champion. Walter Hagen played a practice round, but was sent back to the country club of Rochester after he beat the head pro and all the other from Rochester.

    Seve Ballesteros a character? Not the first one that would have come to mind for me.

    • Vardon Bunker

      Jun 7, 2016 at 10:06 pm

      Ronald, you are most correct. The author got the year wrong. He was referring to the 1913 U.S. Open at The Country Club, not the 1912 U.S. Open. Editors and “flapping jackets” are rare these days. It was, however, an interesting and enjoyable article. Thank you, Mark.

  7. Mikko U

    Jun 2, 2016 at 5:43 pm

    Just today during our round we were talking about how all the great players have different swings but their impact positions are pretty much the same. This is another amazing proof of that, everything just simply comes together for that one millisecond and that’s all that matters.

  8. Jay

    Jun 2, 2016 at 3:12 pm

    Great read – thanks!!

  9. Philip

    Jun 2, 2016 at 12:53 pm

    Thanks – great read and nice footage.

  10. cody

    Jun 2, 2016 at 12:24 pm

    thanks, that was a fun read.

  11. Greg V

    Jun 2, 2016 at 12:08 pm

    A young Bobby Jones watched Ted Ray hit an impossibly high recovery shot over a tree. He remembered that shot as one of the best that he ever saw.

    We can say that John Daly followed in Ted Ray’s footsteps.

  12. Christosterone

    Jun 2, 2016 at 11:40 am

    Awesome article…love historical nuggets like this…
    Keep them coming.
    A+++

    -Chris

  13. Jake Anderson

    Jun 2, 2016 at 11:28 am

    terrible swing. boring guy.

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