Ryder Cup Trophy: Fun Facts and History

The Ryder Cup Trophy
The Ryder Cup Trophy. Andrew Redington/Getty Images

The creation of the Ryder Cup trophy began in 1926 when the competition's namesake put up money for it.

Samuel Ryder, a Brit, an avid golfer, and a successful businessman, commissioned a trophy in 1926 to serve as the prize in a proposed goodwill competition pitting British professional golfers against their American counterparts.

Key Takeaways: Ryder Cup Trophy

  • The trophy was commissioned by and donated by British businessman Samuel Ryder.
  • The trophy is a gold chalice 17 inches high.
  • The figure atop the trophy is believed to British golfer Abe Mitchell.
  • The original Ryder Cup resides with the Professional Golfers' Association of Great Britain & Ireland.

Ryder spent £250 (equivalent to $400 at the time) to have the trophy created. It was designed by the Mappin & Webb Company in the form of a golden chalice, with the small figure of a golfer on top of the lid. That trophy is the Ryder Cup. It was originally intended by Ryder to be awarded for a 1926 match between golfers representing the United States and Britain. But that hastily assembled event was, Ryder eventually decided, not the appropriate place to unveil his trophy.

The Ryder Cup trophy first appeared in public in 1927 at a send-off for the British team departing Southampton, England, and sailing for Worcester, Massachusetts, for the first Ryder Cup match.

Ryder Cup Trophy Basics

The Ryder Cup trophy is:

  • Made out of gold;
  • 17 inches in height;
  • Nine inches in width (handle to handle);
  • Four pounds in weight;
  • The cup sits atop a wooden base (called a "plinth"), around which are gold bands. On the gold bands are engraved the scores of each Ryder Cup played. So the wooden base will have to expand at some point to accommodate more scores, as the competition moves forward.
Samuel Ryder presents the Ryder Cup trophy to George Duncan in 1929.
Trophy namesake Samuel Ryder (left) presents the Ryder Cup to British captain George Duncan following the 1929 match. Bettmann/CORBIS/Bettmann Archive/Getty Images

Who Is the Golfer on Top of the Trophy?

Atop the trophy is the figure of a golfer. Is that little guy on top of the Ryder Cup representative of a real golfer? Yes. That figure is modeled on British professional golfer Abe Mitchell. Mitchell was a friend of Samuel Ryder and was Ryder's golf instructor beginning in 1925. Mitchell played in three Ryder Cup competitions (although he was unable to play the first one in 1927) — 1929, 1931 and 1933 — and had eight Top 10 finishes in the British Open.

Is Ryder's Original Cup Still Presented to Winning Team?

No — but that original Ryder Cup trophy is still in existence. According to the PGA of America, Samuel Ryder deeded the original trophy to The Professional Golfers' Association of Great Britain. Today, the PGA of GB&I still has the original trophy.

The PGA of America, meanwhile, owns an exact replica. A third identical copy is kept for touring purposes; when you see (or hear about) the Ryder Cup trophy being displayed somewhere (making a public appearance, so to speak) it is this third trophy that is "on tour." This third version is sometimes called "the traveling Ryder Cup."

And each member of the winning Ryder Cup team receives a slightly scaled-down replica of the trophy to keep.