The USGA Men’s State Team Championship, as well as the Women’s State Team Championship, grew out of the Association’s Centennial celebration in 1995. It was believed that a new championship, one in which each state could be represented by non-college, amateur golfers, was a good way to cap the USGA’s year-long birthday celebration. In enthusiasm and fine golf, the State Team Championship proved such a success that it has been instituted to return every two years.
The championship was fashioned after the biennial World Amateur Team Championships. Each state was invited to send three players; 46 states and Puerto Rico responded and sent teams to compete at Lake Nona Golf Club in Orlando, Fla., in 1995, and 50 states and Puerto Rico sent teams to compete at SunRidge Canyon Golf Club in Fountain Hills, Ariz., in 1997. Since 2001, 52 teams — all fifty states, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia — have participated.
State associations were given the option to choose their teams by any method. College players, however, were ineligible due to NCAA bylaws. Under current NCAA rules, a player may only participate in an international team match when that team is sponsored by the national governing body, such as in the Walker Cup Match.
Otherwise, the player is faced with being declared ineligible for the remainder of the season of the infraction, as well as the following season.
Some states chose their players on a point system. Some selected the top finishers from their state championships or conducted qualifying tournaments. Virginia and a few other states empanelled selection committees that sifted through the year’s results.
The first State Championship, conducted October 25-28, 1995, gave a decided advantage to southern teams as it came beyond the competitive season for many states. The South Dakota team, for example, had left home with six inches of snow on the ground, and the Alaskans hadn't played since mid-September.
Based on the World Amateur Team format, in which each team fields four players, with only the best three scores counted each of three rounds, Virginia prevailed in the inaugural. Minnesota, with nationally decorated amateur John Harris leading the way, won the 1997 event with a cumulative score of 416, 10 under par.
No individual prizes are awarded, but it is important that many of the best amateurs in the country have supported these early championships. In 1997, four members of that year's USA Walker Cup team played, including Harris, and many USGA champions have represented their home state.