The 1939 Ryder Cup match was to be played in Jacksonville, Florida.
As news of the team selection was awaited the following appeared in
the Birmingham Post of 8/8/39
“I think we might put down Bert Gadd as a surprise selection (for the Ryder Cup). He is a fine, though unfortunate, player and one of whom Henry Cotton (G. B. Captain) has a high opinion. Also remember that he does well in the (Penfold) League tournaments each year. Being match play it gives a good indication about a player’s Ryder Cup possibilities”.
On August 21st the selectors met and decided to choose the first eight players only at that stage. The minutes listed five unanimous choices who were: Playing captain Henry Cotton, the Open Champion - Dick Burton, Reg Whitcombe, Sam King and Alf Padgham, to which were added Charles Whitcombe, Jimmy Adams, and Dai Rees. This left two places to be announced after the News of the World tournament from a short list of possibilities nominated in order of preference, although this was not binding. The names on the list were: Arthur Lees, Percy Alliss, Alf Perry, Bert Gadd and Bill Cox. It was the third time that I had been in the reckoning since 1933.
When the first eight choices were released, Charles Whitcombe, who had played in every match since 1927, immediately put out a statement in the Times saying that he would not make the trip, as the strain would be too much. His last trip to America had “put six years on his life”, he said. This obviously reduced the odds on my selection as one would be promoted to take Charles’ place and, whether that was me or one of the others, the choice for the remaining positions was now two from four. [On August 26th the Times, commenting on the options for the selection committee, said: “Gadd, who has played well in the Penfold League Tournament, suggests himself”. On that committee were two men who had advocated Bert’s inclusion: Dick Wheilden from Moseley, who had first spoken of his Ryder Cup potential in 1933 and the man mentioned earlier, Albert Haskins, now Northern Secretary of the PGA. (In earlier years when trial matches had been held Wheilden and Haskins had selected teams to play for their places)]
A couple of years earlier the Liverpool Echo columnist Jack McLean had a dig at the committee in his Around and About – Home Links, referring to them as “Old fogeys” with the exception of the local representative - Albert. If there were “more of his type”, he said, “some of the northerners who feel that they live in the colder part of the country – in more ways than one – will be happy to know that their claims are being sifted very carefully”. I was certainly very happy when, two days after the Ryder Cup committee had met, Albert took me aside whilst I was playing at Ormskirk in the Leeds Cup (also the northern qualifyer for the News of the World) and told me that I would be in the team. He was quite definite about it and had come out on to the course especially to find me and pass on his news. With war imminent the formal discussions on the matter appear to have been shelved and no records have been found, so Albert’s statement to me cannot be corroborated, but his words are etched on my memory - It is not the kind of thing you are liable to forget! As to his authority for his statement, we can only speculate on the basis of the ‘circumstantial evidence’.
Since the News of the World tournament had yet to be played it could be that I had been chosen as the replacement for Charles Whitcombe. Had Albert and Dick managed to convince the southern members of the committee – F. H. Taylor (Oxford University), R. McKenzie (Stanmore) and J. H. Taylor (Royal Mid Surrey)? - perhaps my performance in the Penfold League Tournament had tipped the balance in my favour. There is no-one left to tell us that - or who the remaining places might have gone to, but in Peter Alliss’s Most Memorable Golf, Peter revealed that his father Percy, whose name was on the short list of possibles, was picked in 1939. At the time it was said that my partner in that crowd affected second qualifying round at the St Andrews Open, Eddie Whitcombe, was one of the final choices and I have seen this in print recently. I have always believed that to be the case and I was surprised when I saw that his name did not appear on the short list. Before the News of the World could be played and the final team announced, the deteriorating situation in Europe made it impossible for the Ryder Cup to go ahead.
At Ormskirk Haskins’ successor as Northern Secretary of the PGA, Wallasey’s Bill Davies, now in his late forties, showed the class that had earned him his Ryder Cup places in 1931 and 33. He broke the course record with a 69 and recorded a two-round total of 139 to win the Leeds Cup by a shot from Syd Scott, who also shot 69. I was in a five-way tie for 3rd place on 144. Before the tournament was completed some of the players had walked off the course