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The inaugural World Cup of Golf took place in 1953, albeit under a different name. The tournament debuted as the Canada Cup and International Golf Championship, a relatively low-key event held in Montreal, Canada. Just seven nations took part.
The event has grown into the greatest global team event in golf, with two-man teams from 28 countries competing for the title on some of the world's finest courses. Many of golf’s greatest players have won the World Cup of Golf over the last 66 years including Hogan, Snead, Nicklaus, Palmer, Player, Ballesteros, Faldo, Langer Els and Woods.
It was no coincidence that the first World Cup was held in Montreal. The Canada Cup and International Golf Championship was the brainchild of American John Jay Hopkins, whose name adorns the World Cup Trophy. that will be presented to the winning team. Hopkins could justifiably be called the founding father of international golf.
“Golf is a civilized and a civilizing game,” he once said. “It’s a game for good neighbors. It has the spice of good competition, while imposing the highest moral restraints.”
Hopkins’ devotion to golf led him to create the International Golf Association in New York in 1952 with the slogan, “International Goodwill Through Golf.”
“It is my hope that the International Tournament will serve through the spirit of the game to bind people together. The thousands, and hopefully, ultimately millions who watch these sportsmen must inevitably recognize the common bond that links all nations," Hopkins said.
The tournament has been played 57 times in 25 countries since its inception 63 years ago. Seventeen World Golf Hall of Fame members are on the winner's list.
Argentina, led by Roberto de Vicenzo and Antonio Cerda, won the inaugural World Cup in Montreal, while Australia’s Peter Thomson and Kel Nagle won there in 1954. In the third year, the competition went to Hopkins’ home club at the Columbia Country Club, in Washington, D.C. The U.S. team of Ed Furgol and Chick Harbert emerged victorious.
It was at the fourth edition of the Canada Cup and International Golf Championship, in 1956, that the event first received worldwide acclaim. Wentworth Club, one of England’s most prestigious courses, was the tournament’s host.
The greatest crowds ever seen at a golf tournament flocked to the Surrey Club to see Hogan and Snead carry off the Cup for the U.S. Hopkins later proclaimed proudly, “The event has come of age.” Hopkins had seen his lifetime's ambition come to fruition.
Hopkins selected the venue for the 1957 event during a 1955 visit to the Kasumigaseki Country Club in Tokyo, Japan. Sadly, he died before he could see the Japanese pair of Torakichi Nakamura and Koichi Ono win the tournament for the host country and create another piece of golf history.
The tournament became known as the World Cup of Golf in 1967, and in 2000 it became one of the four events that make up the World Golf Championships. When the World Cup went back to Japan, to the Taiheiyo Club’s Gotemba Course, in 2001, it produced one of the most dramatic finishes in its long and illustrious history. That year, four teams went into a sudden-death playoff.
South Africa, New Zealand, Denmark and the United States put on a show of epic proportions before Retief Goosen and Ernie Els finally emerged victorious for South Africa at the second extra hole. Woods holed a dramatic eagle chip on the final hole to get the United States into the playoff. It was one of the least visible shots of Woods’ illustrious career, but also one of his best.
Fifteen nations have been the proud possessors of the John Jay Hopkins Cup. Nicklaus' six victories, with three different partners, are the most in tournament history. Palmer won five World Cups, four of them with Nicklaus as his partner. Fred Couples and Davis Love III equalled the record of team wins by Nicklaus and Palmer by winning four consecutive titles from 1992 to 1995.
The legacy Hopkins left the game of golf is immense. As former PGA TOUR commissioner Tim Finchem said, “The World Cup of Golf has held an esteemed position within the golf world for decades. It has done as much to promote golf around the world as any event in the sport.”
Over the past half century, the World Cup has been supported by presidents and prime ministers who realize the importance of the event and the value it provides in bringing nations together and creating greater understanding around the world.
As Matsutaro Shoriki, a kindred spirit of Hopkins who helped take the World Cup to Japan in 1957, succinctly put it, “If the people of the world learn to play with each other they will know better how to live with each other.”
"Any competition that involves world golf such as the World Cup is certainly a great contribution to the game... As years go on and we see the golf world changing very rapidly now from what was a domination by the United States, it's now becoming a world issue. As time goes on, we will see the World Cup become even more prominent in the world of golf." -Arnold Palmer
"You know, when you look at the flags at the back of the range and you see guys winning it, like Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, you know, it kind of puts in perspective what kind of event this is. We take it very seriously. We can't speak for the rest of the countries. But we take it seriously and we would certainly love this on our resumé." -Graeme McDowell
"I have to say back in 2011, I got the opportunity, I was looking at the list of potential guys to be part of the World Cup, and I was ready to kind of sell myself as a guy's potential partner. It was something I was really excited and really interested in being a part of when I was the top-ranked American that was ready to go play, I got the opportunity to pick my partner.”
“I look back at and it's a real highlight for me. It's one of the things in my career that I'm glad to have been a part of and glad to have won it. Any time you get to represent your country; and to represent your country in a team of two is a really special opportunity.” -Matt Kuchar
"It was a complete honor to play for Australia down here in Australia. To play in front of the Melbourne fans that are so passionate about their sport was an amazing feeling. I am definitely going to embrace being a World Cup of Golf winner.” -Jason Day
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