This September’s Ryder Cup matches will be contested over the PGA Centenary Course at Scotland’s Gleneagles resort. Ed Hodge grew up near Gleneagles and as it always held a special place in his heart, decided to write a “coffee table” book depicting the history of Gleneagles golf and the Ryder Cup: “Jewel In the Glen.”
Ed and I had the following Skype Golf Conversation in early May of this year.
Golf Conversations: Loved the book. Congratulations. When did you get the idea for the book?
Ed Hodge: I’d always wanted to write a book. My grandfather was a journalist for 66 years. He interviewed Elvis Presley at Prestwick airport in 1960. It was the only time Elvis was in the UK. I used to see my grandfather working on his little typewriter, so I got into writing. I grew up near Gleneagles and have a great love for the area.
I did my first interview in March, 2011. I initially had a plan of about 40 interviews with all the famous people connected with Gleneagles and the people who work at the hotel at Gleneagles. My plan was to get as many interviews in the bag, so to speak, so that in 2012 I could write a chapter a month with 14 chapters.
In all, it probably took me about 2½ years working at night. At that time, I had two very young children so there were a lot of late nights. But the motivation for me was the fact that I was able to get Gleneagles to back the project.
I’m a first-time author, so trying to find a publisher is never easy. But the fact that Gleneagles committed to the project helped me get it off the ground. Although then I had the added prospect of meeting their expectations. But I think we’ve certainly done that.
GC: I think so as well. Did you envision this as a “coffee table book” with a lot of big, beautiful photographs?
EH: Yeah, absolutely. Gleneagles is a five-star resort. It has a lot of well-heeled clients, business guests, and returning families … and they like good, quality products. “Coffee table hardback” was the thinking from the outset.
From the contacts that I have at Gleneagles, I knew of the rich photography that the hotel has, dating back to the 1910s, 1920s, and onwards. So it was just a question of sourcing all the photographs. I enjoyed doing a lot of photography work as well as the writing.
GC: You were taking photos?
EH: No, just sourcing them all. I knew of photographs that I wanted to have in the book. I knew people who had them so it was a question of getting hold of these people. My publishers were also very good because they used their own contacts to track down a lot of the good pictures as well.
People keep saying to me, it’s a really well-illustrated book, so I don’t know why I bothered writing all the words.
GC: The photographs are wonderful. Golf fans who love the history and traditions of the game, they’re really going to enjoy the photos. Don’t get me wrong, the writing is very good, too.
You begin the first chapter about the 2012 Ryder Cup at Medinah … I’m assuming you were there.
GC: Let me ask you a question: The US really lost that one, right? I still can’t believe what happened.
That really happened, huh?
EH: I managed to secure some tickets and went there with my dad and my brother-in-law. I still can’t work out how America managed to lose that.
GC: This interview is over!
It was unbelievable. You guys have been kicking our rear ends in the Ryder Cup for such a long time now. Jack Nicklaus wrote the foreword to your book – and it was his idea to include continental Europe in the Ryder Cup. It used to be just Great Britain and Ireland. I think it’s time to go back to that. Forget Spain and Germany and Sweden and France. I say that we go back to the traditions that your book celebrates. Get Jack Nicklaus on the phone, tell him Samuel Ryder never wanted Europe involved in this competition.
EH: We’ve got quite a lot of good British players at the moment. I take your point, the Europeans have made a great difference to the contest. But if you think about the British team just now, you would have Poulter, Rose, Donald, and Westwood. They’re all English.
GC: And Poulter is the Yankee Killer. This guy makes putts in the Ryder Cup that are unbelievable.
EH: Undoubtedly, Europe would not have won the Ryder Cup without what he did. Unbelievable to hole the putts that he did.
GC: And you neglected to mention Rory McIlroy, who I predict will win the Open Championship this year. [Editor’s note: the previous sentence was inserted at press time for entertainment purposes only.]
Let’s get back to your book. Tell me about your contact with Jack Nicklaus. Did you meet with him, did you talk on the phone?
EH: He designed the course in 1993 at Gleneagles that will host the Ryder Cup. It was called the Monarch’s Course. The PGA moved to Gleneagles in 2001 so they decided to rename the course the PGA Centenary. Mr. Nicklaus designed the course and as time has evolved, it needed changes. It was quite an American course when it was first built in ’93. And here we are, 21 years later and it sets far better into the Scottish landscape.
He came over in the summer of 2012 to make his final course changes. I spoke with his management and they were quite happy for him to write the foreword to my book. He spent the whole day at Gleneagles. He’d been on the go the whole day and was very tired because he’d flown in from America that morning. I’d been there for about 8 hours waiting to speak with him. When it got to about 7 o’clock his manager said, “Look, he’s going to get a meal and then he’s going to bed. I’m really sorry.”
Obviously, I was quite disappointed. But the manager said, “Mr. Nicklaus will phone you tomorrow morning at 8 o’clock on our way to the airport.”
You probably know, you’re a little bit wary when the world’s greatest golfer says he’s going to phone you the next morning. You’re not entirely sure that’s going to happen.
GC: I’ve never had that experience, but I’ll take your word for it.
EH: With any sportsman, you’re never entirely sure you’ll get a call back. I was driving back from Gleneagles that night and I realized that the next morning, I take my children into nursery. And the nursery opens at 8 o’clock.
GC: As Old Tom Morris used to say, “Oy, vey.”
EH: The nursery’s about three miles from where I live so I knew I had to drop the kids off and get back home to take the call on my phone. So I got my kids well organized and got to the nursery at quarter to eight, thinking I can drop them off and get back. But when I was at the nursery they told me that due to insurance reasons, you can’t let the children enter the nursery until 8 o’clock.
EH: I was waiting there with my children until 8 o’clock, frantically looking at my mobile phone, got back in my car and then realized I had no mobile reception. It was about 8:40 when the call came in. I was in my kitchen. His first words were, “Hey, Ed, whatcha got for me?” That was Mr. Nicklaus phoning me back.
GC: He had a lot of nerve, keeping you waiting for 40 minutes!
EH: He was true to his word and I chatted to him for about 45 minutes on the phone. That was a great experience. I had quite a lot of questions for him; he did his best to answer them. Some of the questions were from the 60s and 70s and he couldn’t remember all the answers, which is understandable. I was asking him about hitting three-woods on the 13th of the King’s Course, and things like that.
GC: Can you remember one or two questions that you asked him?
EH: Nicklaus was on the 13th tee and he’d asked the caddie how far it was to clear the bunker. The caddie said it was 260 or 270. Nowadays that’s a piece of cake, but at that time they were using the persimmon clubs. Mr. Nicklaus stood up and cracked one on the fly over the bunkers. It went some 300 yards with a persimmon driver. He remembered that a little bit.
When he first visited Gleneagles, he recalled that it was the finest parcel of land he was ever been given to work with. Because of the way the course sits in the glen, as you’ll see in September. It’s very scenic, and he certainly enjoyed working on it.
The feeling I got from speaking with him is that the PGA Centenary is a very playable golf course. For guys like me, it’s quite long. I play off an 8 handicap and it’s quite difficult. He’s designed the course in a way that the Ryder Cup will produce birdies and probably eagles as well. And I think ultimately one of the things you want to see in Ryder Cups is great entertainment.
GC: And at Gleneagles … one does expect to see eagles.
You interviewed a lot of famous people for your book. Jackie Stewart, Gary Player, Lee Trevino. Did you speak with Sean Connery?
EH: I tried. He’s taking a back seat from public life, I believe. He’s not doing a lot of interviews. I tried to use Jackie Stewart to contact him because they’re close friends. My mom used to work for Sir Jackie Stewart when he had…
GC: The shooting school at Gleneagles.
EH: Yes, the clay pigeon shooting school. I did manage to get some words from Mr. Connery from the archives that Gleneagles had that I don’t think people were totally aware of. He played a lot of golf at Gleneagles in the 60s and 70s when he was James Bond. Ian Marchbank, who was the head professional at Gleneagles for some 30 years, had a great relationship with Sir Sean Connery and played a lot of golf with him. It was good to speak with Mr. Marchbank about his stories of Mr. Connery.
GC: I enjoyed the entire book, but I really liked the part about the different celebrities who played on the BBC show, “International Pro-Celebrity Golf.” There are some great YouTube clips of those matches. It’s great seeing Lee Trevino and other golfers with some personality playing the game. We don’t have that anymore … you just don’t have the kinds of celebrities that they used to have.
EH: You’ll probably find that celebrities are a bit more private now. I think the big success of the “Pro-Celebrity” in the 1970s and 80s at Gleneagles was due to the fact that the golfer partnered with the celebrity. So it was a team event. They had a lot of fun together. The times were more relaxed for golf.
GC: Your book paints golf in a positive and fun way. It’s a lovely contribution to what golf is and what we’d like it to be again. I don’t know if we’ll ever get there again, but your book brings back some great memories.
A lot of work went into the book. It’s a great mixture of photos and text and I think you did a great job. I tip my tam to you, Ed!
EH: Thank you.
GC: When did the book come out?
EH: August, 2013. Part of my planning was that most Ryder Cup books come out after the event. I wanted to give people a knowledge of Gleneagles before the event. But I also tried to write it in a way that the majority of the book can set quite happily after the event as well. So I had to be quite careful with the writing that it wasn’t just all about the build up to September, 2014. If you picked up the book in 2016, it would still be very relevant.
GC: It’s also about the history of the Ryder Cup and how it evolved from Gleneagles. Correct?
EH: Yes, the Ryder Cup started officially in 1927 with you guys in Worcester, Massachusetts.
GC: Yes, that’s where we invented the corporate hospitality tent concept.
EH: But it was two informal matches that helped spark the official start of the Ryder Cup. The first one was at Gleneagles in 1921 when Great Britain and American professionals met for the first time ever in a match on the King’s Course.
A newspaper here called “The Glasgow Herald” fronted up 1000 guineas for a tournament of the same name. Quite a few Americans were coming over anyway because they were trying to play in the Open that year in St. Andrews. So the organizers of “The Glasgow Herald” managed to get some top Americans to play, including Walter Hagen.
On our side, we had Harry Vardon, James Braid, and J.H. Taylor. That tournament planted the seeds; there was another match at Wentworth in England in 1926. Then Samuel Ryder got involved and put up a trophy and they managed to get the event kicked off in 1927, and here we are today.
GC: And when you say that tournament “planted the seeds,” didn’t Samuel Ryder make his money from selling seeds?
EH: Yes! That’s a nice connection! He sold penny packets of seed. He was a decent businessman and a big golf fan. You probably know that the little figure on top of the Ryder Cup trophy is Ryder’s coach. Some people think it’s Ryder but it’s a chap called Abe Mitchell.
GC: Were you able to speak with Peter Alliss?
EH: Yes, I managed to catch up with Peter. He was somebody I wanted to speak to because of the “Pro-Celebrity”; he hosted those matches in the 70s and 80s at Gleneagles. His father, Percy, won a famous match at Gleneagles that has escaped my memory. One of the Dunlop events, I think it was. So the Alliss family has a rich history at Gleneagles, and he was keen to talk about that.
GC: He’s my favorite golf announcer. Peter Alliss makes everything light-hearted and fun. I would imagine it was very entertaining to interview him.
EH: Yeah, he was quite funny. I had a bit of difficulty tracking him down. When I finally got him on the phone, he said, “Oh, sorry. I was at the lavatory.”
I don’t think I’ve ever used the word “lavatory” because you don’t hear that a lot over here. You hear the word “toilet.” But he’s a very proper Englishman. His memory is still so good; he remembers Connery and Trevino and Ballesteros all playing in the “Pro-Celebrity.”
Tom Watson had the longest-ever drive in his career on the 18th hole of the King’s Course. He was playing the “Pro-Celebrity” against Greg Norman and a couple of celebrities. He came to the 18th hole on a July day; the course was really hard and fast. It’s a par 5 but it’s downhill. If you can get over the second hill, the ball careens way down the hill.
He and Norman hit ridiculous drives and their balls rested just short of the green! I think the yardage for Watson was 494 yards. Interestingly, in September’s Ryder Cup, 18 is going to be one of the practice putting greens.
GC: I was at Gleneagles several years ago on a cool, misty day in early October. My tee shot on 18 went … uh, let’s just say the hole was playing uphill that day.
Ed, please sum up your book in a few words.
EH: It’s ultimately a celebration of golf at Gleneagles with a Ryder Cup slant. It’s not a Ryder Cup book, so to speak. I wanted to bring to life the joy and the history of Gleneagles … from growing up nearby and my passion for the place. It provides a glimpse into the past and a nice take on the future as well. It provides a great insight into Gleneagles and into the Scottish focus on the Ryder Cup. This will be only the second time that a Ryder Cup will be held in Scotland. The first one was in 1973; it’s been a long time coming back for Scotland.
GC: Are you going to be handing out autographed copies of your book to the team members?
EH: I gave a copy to Paul McGinley when I met him last September. And I sent a copy off to Mr. Watson as well. It would be nice if some of the European and American guys would read it because there might be a few inspirational memories there for them.
GC: Ed, once again, great job on the book. I wish you much success with it.
EH: Thank you, Robert.