During the week of May 20th, 2019, there was a golf tournament at Bay Hill Country Club in Orlando Florida. Odds are you didn’t hear a thing about it, there was no radio, TV or press coverage that I am aware of. Although it was an International tournament, I doubt that you would know any of the players unless they were your friends, family or co-workers.
The tournament was the International King’s Cup, a competition named after the King himself, Arnold Palmer. The International King’s Cup is an annual Ryder Cup-style event that was played for the first time on US soil. And what better place to host such an event than Arnold Palmer’s Bay Hill Club & Lodge. The International King’s Cup is a team match play competition currently played every year between an Irish National team and an American National team.
Golf’s greatest ambassador was well known for his honesty, integrity, sportsmanship and a commitment to excellence, all qualities exemplified in this year’s tournament between the US and Ireland. The 16-man teams compete for 3 days in a match play format with 2 points awarded for winning a hole and 1 point for a halve. The King’s Cup is awarded to the team with the most points at the end of the 3-day competition; Team Ireland has held the Cup since the inaugural event in 2015.
After Team Ireland took an early lead on Day One with teammates Ryan Gribben and David Barron taking a 10-point win in Open Championship division and Tom Muldoon and Martin Peters taking their match by 8 points. But the US team came roaring back, led by Phil Smith and Andy Kiefer in the Open C flight, Fred Stone and David Muldowney in the Senior Championship division and Bob Silvestri and Bill Daddono in Senior A. At the conclusion of Day One’s fourball matches, the US had it’s first lead at 147 – 141.
Day two was a different story. It’s possible that going into the competition, Team Ireland was a little overconfident, having never lost. With the US winning the first day, Ireland had been sent a wakeup call and responded accordingly on Day two. The Senior flights were on the course early and Americans Andy Kieffer and Phil Smith padded the US lead with a solid 16-point victory in Open C division. But the Irish team came roaring back as Tom Muldoon and Martin Peters started the onslaught with a 10-point margin in Open B followed by 14 and 6 points victories by Andrew Connolly/Geoff Edgar in Open A and Ryan Gribben/David Baron in Open Championship. When the dust settled, Team Ireland had opened up a 6-point lead of its own after Day Two, 291 – 285.
Like the Ryder Cup, Day 3 is head-to -head singles matches. Phil Smith and Andy Kiefer in Open C led the U.S. comeback with 14- and 10-point margins in the first two matches of the day. The pair were the stars of Team USA and never scored less than 21 points in any format.
Team Ireland was not going to go away quietly and started to whittle away at the lead as William Hanley, Pat Toomey and Tom Muldoon scored victories in the next 3 matches with. The lead went back and forth until American Bill Daddono scored an 18-point victory to seal Ireland’s fate. In the end, the USA tasted its first victory in the King’s Challenge Cup, with a 582- 570 win. Next year’s event returns to Northern Ireland.
The 16-man teams are established through local qualifiers, in which two-man teams play an 18-hole best ball competition as described in Rule 23 of the USGA Rules of Golf. From there, winners go on to play in the National Championship, which will be played at the Legends Resort in Myrtle Beach, SC Sept. 12-14, 2019. The winners at the National Championship will determine the 16-man team which will compete in Ireland in 2020.
Currently, the only two countries that participate in the King’s Cup events are Team Ireland and Team USA. Recently, the USGC – short for United States Golf Challenge – brought Randy Tantlinger on board to spearhead expansion of the evet into other countries. Tantlinger has been involved in similar events with Playboy Golf and feels that within 5 years, he can have more than 20 countries involved. A lofty, but doable goal.
Everyone is eligible to be a member of the team, although there is not a women’s division – yet! All you need is a playing partner and a visit to a local course that is hosting a qualifying event. Check the website as new qualifying events are being added each week. Odds are, if there isn’t an event currently on the books at a course in your area, there will be soon. Pick the Flight that best suits your game based on USGA handicaps and you could be on your way to Ireland with Team USA for the 2020 event, For more information on how to get involved, visit the USGC website at www.usgolfchallenge.com