Ted Ray

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Ted Ray


In an age when professional sportsmen, and particularly golfers, were said to be much greater characters than of late, one of the biggest and most colorful characters of the game was the Jerseyman Ted Ray. By Mark Donaghy, from the website Golfwrx.com.

Top player

Born Edward Rivers Ray in 1877, Ted was one of several top players to come from Jersey. 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 1913 US Open, playing with Vardon in a play-off along with the eventual winner Francis Ouimet.

Ray was a towering, stocky man who was known for his prodigious power off the tee. 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, and had to develop phenomenal recovery skills to be able to compete. 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 (wedge). He developed a reputation for an ability to play a variety of niblick shots in major tournament conditions, and his recoveries with that club from seemingly impossible places had to be seen to be believed.

Delicate touch

This propensity for hard hitting made him 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.

This is how Harry Vardon, in his book, How to Play Golf, described his fellow islander:

“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, but at the psychological moment he has done everything correctly.”

Ted Ray was one of the first professional golfers who travelled extensively. He would go 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 US Open (1920 Inverness Club in Ohio).

The two great Jersey golfers of their era - Harry Vardon and Ted Ray
Winner of the US Open in 1920. Fellow Jerseyman Harry Vardon led at the end of the third round and was five shots ahead with five holes to play in the final round when his game collapsed, leaving Ted Ray the winner, one shot ahead of his compatriot, whom he idolised early in his career
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