News & Opinion

It’s time for Memorial to honor Ted Ray

DUBLIN, Ohio – When the Memorial Tournament announced Sunday that Judy Rankin will be the tournament’s 2019 honoree, the decision was highly warranted.

At 73, Rankin has done practically everything in golf, from winning tournaments, to successfully captaining a U.S. Solheim Cup team, to covering golf for ABC and Golf Channel and being inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame.

Rankin, who won 26 times in an LPGA career that spanned 1962-83, also has stacked up numerous other awards and honors for her work on and off the course. She represents an admirable selection for the Memorial’s annual honor but also a bittersweet choice.

The late Ted Ray deserves the recognition.

Ray, who was born in 1877 on the Isle of Jersey, was an imposing figure at 6 feet and 220 pounds – or nearly 16 stones, by the measure of the day.

He turned pro at age 17, and for the next 45 years was a golf professional who amassed 46 professional victories, notably the 1912 British Open and the 1920 U.S. Open.

From 1899 to 1921, Ray finished out of the top 20 in major championships – primarily the British Open – only once. In his career, he missed only two cuts in majors – in 1931 at age 54 and in 1937 at age 60.

Because of travel and cost, Ray made only three trips to the U.S. for the Open: 1913, 1920 and 1927.

In the 1913 U.S. Open, he lost in a playoff to American Francis Ouimet and British compatriot Harry Vardon.  

Seven years later at Inverness Club in Toledo, Ohio, Ray won the U.S. Open when the runners-up included future World Golf Hall of Fame members Leo Diegel, Jock Hutchison and Vardon, with Bobby Jones four shots back.

The next day, Vardon, a fellow citizen of the Isle of Jersey, wrote a story about Ray’s victory that appeared in The Milwaukee Journal.

“A man who has the reputation of brilliance rather than steadiness won the victory on steadiness,” Vardon said.

Vardon went on to quote Ray after his victory in the U.S. Open.

“I have never seen a finer field of golfers in any tournament, and it took more than ability to make the strokes to win it.”

Because of World War I, Ray would lose five chances in his prime to play the British Open. When the tournament resumed, in 1920 at Royal Cinque Ports Golf Club, he finished third.

Ray would go on to captain the first and unofficial Ryder Cup team for Great Britain at Wentworth in 1926 and the first official Great Britain Ryder Cup team in 1927 at Worchester, Mass.

Ray’s accomplishments in golf are extensive, but as with many of the long-since deceased players, their games either have been forgotten or discounted.

The Captain’s Club at Memorial discussed the possibility of inducting Ray in 2019 but opted to wait.

“He will likely get in over the next two or three years,” said a Captain’s Club member, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

But why wait?

And for that matter, why is Ray not in the World Golf Hall of Fame, where his achievements are in many cases far beyond those of the current occupants?

It’s difficult to explain why Ray is not part of the golf’s most elite club. Hopefully, the third player in that monumental playoff from 1913 at The Country Club will join Vardon and Ouimet in the World Golf Hall of Fame and as a Memorial honoree.

Alex Miceli is the founder and publisher of Morning Read. Email: alex@morningread.com; Twitter: @AlexMiceli