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Spectacular Simpson Cup Opening Ceremony lights up Oak Hill
A spectacular opening ceremony laid the platform for what will no doubt be an incredible Simpson Cup at Oak Hill this week.

The fifth Simpson Cup had long been billed as being set to be the biggest and best yet. Any doubts over such an inevitability were firmly put to bed on Sunday evening, as a tremendous opening ceremony set the tone for what is going to be an unforgettable week.

It all took place on Oak Hill's iconic 13th hole at the East Course, as both teams, led by a combination of bagpipers and flag bearers, marched up the fairway. Conspicuous by their absence though were the two captains of Team USA and Team GB.

However, they arrived in sumptuous style; treated to a helicopter ride which circled the historic course, before swooping at an astonishingly low altitude in a daring flyover as the huge crowd in attendance looked on in awe.

The skippers touched down on the 13th fairway shortly after and took their seats by their teammates on the green. A rousing rendition of each national anthem followed, and it rounded off a suitably impressive ceremony that opened the tournament in fitting style.

Earlier on Sunday, the players had enjoyed a practice round in the form of a competition with Oak Hill's members and veterans at the West Course. While partly being a means for the players to get acclimated with the conditions, it quickly became a day characterised by camaraderie as these folks from all walks of life shared stories and enjoyed each other's company.

Oak Hill then organised both a picnic and a short ceremony dedicated to their veterans - past and present. Moving stuff indeed, and the plaque that was unveiled at the end of it was a superb touch.

But superb touches were the order of the day, and undoubtedly the biggest driving force behind the fifth Simpson Cup raising the bar to stratospheric levels has been the efforts of Oak Hill and the wider Rochester community. This was perfectly epitomised by the gala dinner, which followed the opening ceremony.

The immense dedication of the Oak Hill Board, committee and staff was revealed to the 550 people in attendance, and it sank in for all in sundry just how much has gone into it. The man hours put in by volunteers within the club and the generosity of sponsors was humbling to hear, not to mention the level of buy in from the community beyond.

But the best of the evening was arguably saved for last. Captains Ogletree and Swain each made speeches which, in very different ways, and in keeping with their respective personalities, were powerful and moving. Attendees were hanging on their every word, so it was perhaps no surprise that, with them having been sufficiently softened up by the two speeches, the subsequent paddle raise yielded in excess of $100,000.

As such, the day could only be described as an overwhelming success. Enormous thanks must go to all those from Oak Hill who have put so much into it, while attendees and sponsors deserve great credit for their incredible generosity. 

Onto Monday then, which is the Player/Sponsor day, and one which will be thoroughly enjoyable for all involved. It will also serve as a commemoration for the late Dave Bagby, a former Team USA player, who sadly passed away only a week ago. But the special atmosphere at Oak Hill that is enveloping the Simpson Cup this week is one heck of a tribute to the man. 

On its own two feet, this is an extraordinary tournament. But with the added impetus from Oak Hill's input, this is an event that is evolving into something truly world class. Roll on the next three days.