It will never be as famous as the Ryder Cup or Walker Cup, but to the eight South Carolina Juniors and the families that will accompany them to Scotland, this year’s Watson Cup is considered to be a once in a lifetime experience by them all.
In 2016 the South Carolina Golf Association was presented with an idea by its Junior Golf Chairman, Ben Zeigler from Florence, to put together a unique golf event for juniors.
Zeigler had traveled and played golf in Scotland and while there hit upon the idea of creating an event for junior golfers which would celebrate the historical connection between the oldest golf club in the world, The Royal Burgess Golf Society and the point of entry for the first golf clubs and balls in America, in Charleston.
The history is a little murky, but the club in Edinburgh believes they started the game in the colonies when they shipped the first golf equipment to the Carolinas.
“In 1739 golf clubs and balls were shipped from Edinburgh to Carolina and that was the start, as far as anyone can determine, of golf in America,” said David Warren, who led the team of Scottish Juniors to play in the first Watson Cup.
The event was named for the 5-time Open Champion golfer of the Year, Tom Watson, who gave his blessing to the competition and was in attendance for the first Cup matches.
He will be in Scotland about the same time as the juniors, but will be there for a different reason. Watson will be spending his honeymoon at the Open Championship at St. Andrews.
It took two years to finalize the plans for the competition and in 2018 the first Watson Cup was played.
The juniors played the Ryder Cup style event on the famous Ocean Course, the site of the “War on the Shore” the 1991 Ryder Cup and at the Watson designed Cassique Golf Club both on Kiawah Island.
The team of South Carolina Juniors won the initial competition and everyone looked forward to the next matches planned for 2020 in Scotland.
Look back at The Golf Club’s coverage of the First Watson Cup with these links to stories on this website. https://scgolfclub.com/2018/10/15/watson-cup-tees-off-at-the-ocean-course/
And then Covid turned the world upside down.
“We really were not sure it would happen again,” said Joe Quick, the Senior Director of the South Carolina Junior Golf Foundation. “First it was pushed back a year and then a little more until traveling could be considered again,” he said.
Late last year it looked like the UK and the US would again make travel possible. Quick and SCJGA Senior Director Justin Fleming contacted Warren and plans started to come together for the trip.
“Working on the itinerary has been tricky with the pandemic, but we got it put together and made sure everything was a go,” said Quick.
The juniors selected for the trip were many of the same ones who played in the annual Can-Am Matches at Wachesaw Plantation in Murrell’s Inlet this past year.
“I’ve never been out of the country before so it will be interesting,” said Tip Price from Greenville. “I just got my passport and I’m looking forward to playing the famous courses we will play,” he said.
The Watson Cup matches will be played over three days during the 10 day trip which begins when the team left from Charleston.
The juniors will play courses in and around Edinburgh.
North Berwick with its famous views of the Firth of Forth, the Royal Burgess Golf Society, the oldest golf club in the world, Gullane #1 which is over 350 years old and Muirfield, designed by Tom Morris and the host to the first 72 hole Open Championship in 1892.
Price has done some homework to learn how to play the Muirfield course that has hosted 16 Open championships including Watson’s win in 1980 and most recently Phil Mickelson’s victory in 2013.
“I found a video of when Phil won and saw what kind of shots he hit. It looks like it is going to be a lot of fun,” added Price.
The Juniors will mostly be playing golf during the trip as you would expect, but there is an open bus tour of Edinburgh and a tour of the historic Royal Burgess club on the agenda.
Major Lenning from Mauldin dialed up Google Earth to see some pictures of where he is going.
“I didn’t know anything about where we were going,” said Lenning. “I knew Scotland was famous for golf, but I looked up each place and everything looks so cool. I can’t wait,” he added.
The Lenning family like many of the other parents of the junior golfers has turned this into a great family adventure.
“My Dad and Mom and three siblings are all coming. They are going to go to London and do some sightseeing when we are playing practice rounds,” he said.
A highlight of Ryder Cup preparations is always the unveiling of the players’ uniforms. The South Carolina Juniors will be looking good in their uniforms that are from Ralph Lauren courtesy of Watson’s connection to the apparel company.
“It sounds pretty nice, but I know I have to bring a rain suit and some warm clothes because you never know what the weather is going to be like when we play,” noted Lenning.
Making the jump across the pond isn’t cheap. It is a big decision for families and when you add in getting passports and accommodations it can get pricey.
“A lot of this came together pretty quick,” said Lance Gregory, Andrew’s father. “Usually you would plan a trip like this for a long time before you go, but because of Covid everything has been rushed,” he said.
Gregory intends to watch Andrew and the other juniors play, but like the Lennings he may slip away for some sightseeing.
“There is a train to London and a puddle jumper you can take from Edinburgh. I will get it figured out. You don’t want to miss something like this,” said Gregory.
Nan Faulkner booked her accommodations and found out it is above an antique store in Edinburgh.
“I could do some damage there,” Hugh Faulkner’s mom joked. “I’m excited to see what another coast line looks like and just everything about Scotland we can see,” she added.
While junior golfers compete on the course, junior parents spend hours walking and watching and associating with the parents of other juniors.
Much of that was lost during the past couple of Covid years. Faulkner is looking forward to the opportunity to once again spend time with other parents while enjoying the trip and the play of their sons.
“Hugh is one of the younger players and I know many of the parents have experience dealing with situations and things we will be experiencing in the next few years. I hope I can learn some things from them that will help us in the future,” she said.
It would be hard to believe with as many golfing families making the trip that the dads will not get the urge to play some of the famous courses their kids will be playing. It isn’t known how many will be packing their clubs with their cameras for the trip, but chances are it will be more than a few.
Depending on the families length of stay the juniors may be able to see a round of the Scottish Open, which is being played in North Berwick at the Renaissance Club, the same week as the Watson Cup.
The Watson Cup team includes Greenville’s Tip Price and Hugh Faulkner,III, Major Lenning from Mauldin, Andrew Gregory from Boiling Springs, Rowan Sullivan from Charleston, Burch Harrison and Adam Hunt from Columbia, Luke Walmet from Mount Pleasant and Jerry Bruns from Beaufort.