The 2017 Simpson Cup contingent were greeted with gloomy skies and a thick mist on Monday morning at the Royal Birkdale Golf Club for the traditional Player/Sponsor event. Mercifully though, the rain never came, and both players and sponsors took advantage of the benign conditions to produce some excellent scoring in the 5-ball Texas Scramble event.
The day provided a unique opportunity for the two parties who make the Simpson Cup possible to come together. On one hand, the bravery and courage the players display each year has been at the heart of the Simpson Cup's exponential growth. However, it would all be a pipe dream without the continued support of our generous sponsors - many of whom have been supporters of On Course Foundation since its inception.
While enjoyment and camaraderie are the main focus of the day's events, there is also a competition on the line, and it is one that has grown in significance since 2016. Dave Bagby was a member of the 2015 Simpson Cup USA team, and, during his time with On Course Foundation, had a profound impact on the charity. He sadly passed away shortly before the showpiece at Oak Hill last year.
In order to commemorate his life, the Player/Sponsor Day was played in his honour for the second year in a row on Monday, and the team led by Simpson Cup stars Nathan Blewer (Team GB) and Chris McCoy (Team USA), along with playing partners Bob Beckett, Robert Cooper and Andrew Long, posted a sensational score of 21-under par (with each team benefiting from a 10 per cent allowance of the total handicaps), running out as winners by three strokes.
Serious business commences on Tuesday
A prize giving and dinner then put the finishing touches to a day where many laughs were shared, and enduring memories made at the classic old links. However, for the players, who now have two practice rounds under their belts, it is time to turn their attentions to the serious business of the Simpson Cup proper, which gets under way at 10am (BST) in the form of six fourball matches - once again at Royal Birkdale.
It was in the fourballs that Team USA laid the foundations for victory at Oak Hill in 2016, shading the first day by a score of four points to two. Indeed, you would have to go back to the inaugural event at TPC Sawgrass in 2012 for the last GB victory in the fourball matches, so they will be determined to put that right as they chart a course to regaining the Simpson Cup.
Based on the quality of golf on display over the last two days, all those watching have every reason to expect an epic contest once the first ball is struck. For the Americans, as holders of the trophy, the opportunity to win on British soil for the first time beckons. The host nation, on the other hand, are still smarting from last year's defeat, and will be straining every sinew to prevent that from happening. What a spectacle it promises to be.
You can view tomorrow's pairings, and keep track of the live scoring on Tuesday and Wednesday, by clicking here. Additionally, the Team GB and Team USA twitter accounts will deliver much of the action in pictures too. Follow it all as it happens!