History of the Walker Cup Match
The Walker Cup Match began in the wake of World War I with a view toward stimulating golf interest on both sides of the Atlantic. The match grew in part out of two international matches between the USA and Canada, in 1919 and 1920.
At the same time, British and American amateurs considered each nation’s national amateur championship a great plum. Meanwhile, the USGA Executive Committee had been invited to Great Britain for a series of meetings with the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews Rules Committee. The meeting was to look at the advisability of modifying various rules of the game. Among the participants was George Herbert Walker, USGA president in 1920.
Upon the Executive Committee’s return to the United States of America, international team matches were discussed. The idea so appealed to Walker that he soon presented a plan and offered to donate a trophy. Walker had been a low handicap player and was a keen advocate of the game. When the press dubbed the trophy the Walker Cup, the name stuck.
In 1921, the USGA invited all golfing nations to send teams to compete in the Match, but no country was able to accept that year. The Americans stuck to their mission, however, and William C. Fownes, the 1910 U.S. Amateur champion, who had twice assembled the amateur teams that played against Canada, rounded up a third team in the spring of 1921 and took it to England. At Hoylake, the American team defeated a British team, 9-3, in an informal match the day before the British Amateur.
Early in 1922, The R&A announced that it would send a team to compete for the Walker Cup at the National Golf Links of America, Walker’s home club, in Southampton, N.Y.
Originally, the competition was open to any country that might care to challenge. The USGA invited all countries to compete. Except for Great Britain, however, no other country was able to accept.
Fownes was the American captain for the inaugural match and his team consisted of Charles Evans Jr., Robert Gardner, U.S. Amateur champion Jesse Guilford, Robert T. Jones Jr., Max Marston, Francis Ouimet, Jess Sweetser and Rudolph Knepper, who did not play.
Robert Harris was captain of the British side, and his players were Cyril Tolley, Roger Wethered, Colin Aylmer, C.V.L. Hooman, W.B. Torrance, John Caven and W. Willis Mackenzie. Ernest Holderness, the British Amateur Champion, was unable to make the trip.
Bernard Darwin, the golf writer of The Times of London, had accompanied the team and wound up playing in the Match. When Harris fell ill, Darwin was invited to compete in his place and serve as playing captain. He defeated Fownes, 3 and 1. The American Team, however, prevailed, winning the first Walker Cup Match, 8-4.
Until recent years, the USA clearly dominated the series, but the number of American victories never clouded the true purpose of the Walker Cup Match. A much higher value has been placed upon the series as a medium of international friendship and understanding between The R&A and the USGA.
The Match was played on an annual basis until 1924, when it was decided that the financial strain of annual encounters was too severe. It was also believed that interest might drop if the Matches were played too frequently. A decision was made to meet in alternate years.
The series was interrupted by World War II after the 1938 Match at St. Andrews, Scotland. When the Match resumed, in 1947, St. Andrews was again selected as the site. Under normal peacetime conditions, the Match would have been played in the USA, but postwar economic conditions would have made the trip difficult for the British.
Many Walker Cup alums have gone to have tremendous professional success, including Jack Nicklaus, Phil Mickelson, Tiger Woods, Corey Pavin, Davis Love III, Rickie Fowler, Webb Simpson and Jordan Spieth.
The USA leads the series, 35-8-1.