Pittsford, Rochester, New York – Having hosted six major championships, along with multiple senior major and US Amateur Championships, Oak Hill Country Club is no stranger to prestigious golf tournaments. But it is the epic Ryder Cup showdown of 1995 with which the venue is arguably most synonymous, and 21 years later those enthralling memories will be reprised as 26 injured servicemen and veterans from either side of the Atlantic lock horns for the annual Simpson Cup on the East and West Courses from September 18-21, 2016.
The competition, now in its fifth edition since the inaugural event at TPC Sawgrass in 2012, pits 13 of the aforementioned servicemen and veterans from the United States against their British counterparts in a Ryder Cup-style tournament which aims to raise funds and awareness for the On Course Foundation - a charitable organization which is registered in both the USA and the UK.
All competitors involved are members of the Foundation, which helps men and women who were injured, sick or wounded in the line of duty rebuild their lives; both through being given the opportunity to play the game, and attaining employment in the golf industry. The Foundation also has Patrons which include Arnold Palmer and the Duke of York.
The Simpson Cup is the marquee event for the charity, and, in addition to Sawgrass, has graced esteemed golf courses such as Royal Lytham & St Annes (2013), Congressional Country Club (2014) and Royal St George’s Golf Club (2015). Team GB will arrive at Oak Hill this September as the defending champions, having lured the Cup away from Team USA at Royal St George’s last year in a thrilling match which ended with a score-line of 9.5 points to 8.5. It added to Team GB’s other triumphs in 2012 and 2013, with Congressional in 2014 being the only American victory to date.
The tournament is named after its founder, John Simpson, former Senior Vice President of International Management Group (IMG). Simpson, who himself only has one fully-functioning leg as a result of suffering polio as a child, is also the Chairman and Founder of the On Course Foundation, and, having managed players such as Nick Faldo and Bernhard Langer, who took centre stage in the 1995 Ryder Cup, seeing his event come to Oak Hill is all the more special.
“I am truly humbled that the Simpson Cup will be taking place at such an historic and glorious course,” Simpson commented. “We all remember the extraordinary scenes here from ’95, and I can’t wait to see it all recreated again in our own unique way.
“Each year we’ve seen the most moving and inspiring stories emerge at the Simpson Cup. I’m very much looking forward to seeing what the class of 2016 has in store for us, and it will be a privilege to watch these guys put on another terrific spectacle at this, one of my favourite golfing venues in the world.”
He continued: “The competition, and the events leading up to it, encapsulate what the On Course Foundation is all about, and giving these incredible veterans the opportunity to shape their futures, both in terms of playing golf and building a sustainable career, is the very least they deserve.”
The 115-year old Oak Hill Country Club has hosted the US Open on three occasions, along with three PGA Championships, and the Club’s President Tim Thaney echoed Simpson’s delight at adding this remarkable tournament to their already-impressive repertoire.
“Our Head Golf Professional, Jason Ballard, let us know about the Simpson Cup and when we started conversations with John Simpson about possibly hosting the Simpson Cup at Oak Hill, we jumped at the chance to be involved,” he said. “Club representatives were able to visit Royal St. Georges last year and Congressional two years ago. Their experience convinced us that Oak Hill should ask to be considered as the next American host club. Aside from the heroic performances put in by the players, this tournament offers something so profound and inspiring and it is truly a great honour for us to be a part of the fantastic work the On Course Foundation is doing.”
The Simpson Cup commences on the evening of Sunday September 18th with the Opening Ceremony and subsequent fundraising gala dinner at the Oak Hill Pavilion. The following day sees the player/sponsors’ competition taking place at the East Course, before the tournament then begins in earnest on the morning of Tuesday September 20th with six four-ball matches (two against two, better ball) at the West Course. The competition then concludes on the Wednesday morning with 12 singles matches back at the East Course.
Proceedings will then be rounded off later that day with the Cup being presented to the winning team, before the Closing Ceremony brings the curtain down on what will undoubtedly be a memorable week for all involved.
Schedule of Simpson Cup Events (all on site at Oak Hill Country Club):
Sunday, September 18th: Official Opening Ceremony, followed by Gala Dinner
Monday, September 19th: Player/Sponsor tournament (East Course)
Tuesday, September 20th: Simpson Cup Tournament Day 1 - Four Ball matches (West Course)
Wednesday, September 21st: Simpson Cup Tournament Day 2 - Singles matches (East Course)
Wednesday, September 21st: Cup presentation and Closing Ceremony
THE ON COURSE FOUNDATION:
The On Course Foundation (OCF) is a registered charity in the UK and a 501(c) (3) tax-exempt organisation in the USA. OCF provides long-term benefits for wounded, injured and sick Servicemen personnel and veterans via golf coaching, work experience placements and jobs in the golf industry. Endorsed by the R&A and US PGA Tour, with His Royal Highness The Duke of York and Arnold Palmer as Patrons, OCF has an ever-growing number of injured members and the Foundation has secured full-time employment for numerous ex-Servicemen and women in the golf industry, with many more undertaking work experience placements with a view to full-time employment.
THE SIMPSON CUP:
The Simpson Cup is an annual tournament between teams of 13 injured Servicemen and veterans from the USA and their British counterparts. The Ryder Cup-style tournament showcases the unique position of golf as one of the few sports where players of all skills and abilities can play together on a level playing field, because of the official golf handicap system.
The tournament is named after its founder, John Simpson, the former Senior Vice President of International Management Group (IMG), who has only one fully functioning leg as a result of suffering from polio as a child. During his time at IMG, John managed elite sportsmen such as Sir Nick Faldo, Bernhard Langer, Greg Norman, Vijay Singh, and Lord Sebastian Coe.
Competitors involved in the Simpson Cup are all members of the On Course Foundation. The Simpson Cup raises awareness and funds for the On Course Foundation, a 501(c)(3) registered organization in the USA and a registered charity in the UK.
OAK HILL COUNTRY CLUB:
Oak Hill Country Club, located in Pittsford, New York, a suburb southeast of Rochester, has a rich history in golf. It started out in 1901 as only 9 holes on 85 acres (0.34 km2) on the banks of the Genesee River in Rochester. The clubhouse was no more than a converted farm house. However, at the time golf was a relatively new sport in America, and as popularity of the sport grew, so did the Country Club.
By 1921 Oak Hill had doubled in size and had a new clubhouse, so when the University of Rochester proposed a land swap in 1921 it was a tough decision for members. However, the Country Club decided to take the university up on their offer, and moved the club to a 355-acre (1.44 km2) plot in nearby Pittsford. This decision ended up benefiting Oak Hill, the University of Rochester, and the City of Rochester. Now with triple the land of the old country club, Oak Hill had room for two 18-hole courses. Designed by Donald Ross, they became the East Course and the West Course. Local physician and civic personality John Ralston Williams cultivated oak trees and planted tens of thousands of them among the greens on what once was a farmed-out field.
The East Course - which hosts the major tournaments - is built around the east branch of Allen Creek, which acts as a lateral hazard on nine of its 18 holes. It has had several changes made over the years, first by Robert Trent Jones Sr. in the early 1960s and later (and more recently for the 1989 Open and 2003 PGA) by Tom Fazio and his design group. In 1941 the Times-Union, a local paper at the time posted a $5000 purse which attracted the greatest golfers in the world, including names such as Sam Snead, Walter Hagen and Ben Hogan. This tournament, won by Snead, put Oak Hill on the national golf map. Several prestigious tournaments would be held at Oak Hill over the next 65 years, including six men's major championships (3 US Opens & 3 PGA Championships) and the epic 1995 Ryder Cup, which Europe dramatically won 14.5 to 13.5.
In 2015, the East Course was ranked 16th in Golf Digest's list of America's 100 Greatest Golf Courses.