Given the number of iconic Simpson Cup Opening Ceremonies in recent years, the Maidstone Club had some tough acts to follow. But the hundreds of enthusiastic guests, players and sponsors will no doubt agree that Sunday's display took things to a new level, with the breathtaking backdrop of Long Island's coastline playing its part.
The Opening Ceremony commenced in earnest at 6pm courtesy of a bag-pipe led procession of the players up the scenic 18th fairway, eliciting goosebumps among attendees surrounding the green. What came next was a spectacular helicopter flyover - circling overhead, before heading back over the crowd and out to sea.
Maidstone Club President Linda Brandi extended a warm welcome to all in attendance, before introducing young Caity Jo Fiorello, who sang spine-tingling renditions of each anthem. The teams were then introduced by respective captains Chad Pfeifer (Team USA) and Mike Browne (Team GB), meaning all that was left to do to put the icing on the cake was for founder John Simpson to declare the seventh edition of the Simpson Cup officially open.
All and sundry subsequently made their way into the clubhouse for the evening dinner, which included interviews with Simpson and both captains, conducted by Sixty Minutes anchor Steve Kroft. Following this fascinating exchange, and some fine cuisine, guests were treated to a speech from decorated war veteran General David McKiernan, who served in the United States Army for nearly 40 years.
Of course, this week is all about raising funds for the On Course Foundation charity, of which all Simpson Cup players are members. As has been the case over the last couple of months, guests and members of Maidstone showed their immense generosity, with significant sums being raised on the night. For their support, and indeed that of our sponsors, the Simpson Cup is truly grateful.
Earlier on Sunday, the players sampled this most unique of golf courses for the first time in a practice round, getting to grips with a layout that combines the spectacular with the traditional, while offering players of all abilities a fair balance between risk and reward. The privilege of gracing such a links wasn't lost on any of the players, but there was no mistaking the business-like approach each of them took.
Despite the heartwarming camaraderie between the two teams, it is abundantly clear that these men are here to do their bit to bring home the Simpson Cup for their country. The Brits, bruised from two successive defeats, exude a palpable sense of determination, and have assembled a very strong team as they bid to win the trophy on American soil for the first time since the inaugural event at Sawgrass in 2012. Their opponents, however, have the wind in their sails, and will not be relinquishing the spoils without a fight. What a week of golf we are in for.
Monday sees the Player/Sponsor day taking place at Maidstone (9am start). This ever-present of the Simpson Cup also serves to commemorate Dave Bagby, the former Team USA member who sadly passed away in 2016. With the weather set fair, it promises to be an enjoyable day for all involved.
The tournament proper then commences on Tuesday with the fourball matches (10am start), followed by 13 singles matches on Wednesday morning (9am start) to determine the eventual victors. The air is filled with excitement, and there is no mistaking it: Simpson Cup 2018 is here, and it's going to be one to remember.