After months of anticipation and excitement, the eighth edition of the Simpson Cup kicked off in unique fashion at the RAF Leuchars Station Officers' Mess in Fife on Sunday. The event has graced world-class venues over the years, and enjoyed some spectacular Opening Ceremonies to boot. But in this most special of years, with Team GB and Team USA locking horns at St Andrew Links, attendees had an experience on Sunday evening which is the preserve of precious few.
Players, sponsors, members and organisers gathered shortly before 6pm, with a mixture of old faces and new combining for a jovial atmosphere. Yet one simply couldn't help being taken in by the incredible history of Leuchars, which is currently home to the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards (whose C Squadron was the first regiment to land at Basra in 2003). The artefacts and memorabilia on display - some of which dates as far back as the Battle of Waterloo - had attendees completely absorbed.
By 7pm though, the sound of bagpipes signalled that it was time for everyone to take their seats and settle in for an evening of entertainment and fine cuisine, with inspiring speeches from both Lieutenant Colonel Fraser McLeman and tournament founder John Simpson, who proudly declared the event to be officially open a short while later.
One of the highlights of the evening, other than the exceptional food, was a solo bagpipe performance from a member of the regiment, who demonstrated incredible skill (and lung capacity) to leave his audience in awe. It was some way to round up the evening - one which was thoroughly enjoyed by all.
Naturally, the core objective of the Simpson Cup week is to raise funds for the On Course Foundation charity, of which all Simpson Cup players are members. Guests and sponsors have helped to raise significant funds again this year, and, for this, all of us involved with the Simpson Cup and the charity extend our sincere gratitude.
Earlier on Sunday, the players got a taste of St Andrews Links with a practice round at the New Course. Despite the heartwarming camaraderie on display between the two teams as they reunited, it is already clear that these men and women are prepared to fight tooth and nail to bring home the Simpson Cup for their country. Not least the host nation, who, coming into this off the back of three chastening defeats, exude a palpable determination to get the job done on home soil. With an experienced captain at the helm in Ian Bishop, and a strong team assembled, they have every chance. That said, the Americans have the wind in their sails, and exhibited their links golf credentials with a resounding victory at Royal Birkdale back in 2017. They certainly won’t be relinquishing their grip on the trophy without a fight either.
Monday sees the Player/Sponsor day taking place at the Jubilee Course (09:20 start), an event which also commemorates former Team USA member Dave Bagby, who passed away in 2016. With the weather set (reasonably) fair, it promises to be a great day for all involved.
The tournament proper then gets under way on Tuesday with the fourball matches at the New Course (11:04 start), followed by 13 singles matches on Wednesday morning at the Old Course (10:30 start). Will the Brits be able to square the series, currently poised at 4-3? Or will the Americans extend their advantage? Simpson Cup 2019 is here, and the stage is set for it to be the most memorable one yet.