COLUMBIA, S.C. – The Royal Burgess Golfing Society (1735) and Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers (1744) will host the second competition between junior golfers from South Carolina and Scotland for the Watson Cup in July. Matches are slated to be contested over Royal Burgess in Edinburgh on July 2 as four-ball matches and then the historic Muirfield in East Lothian the morning of July 3, showcasing foursomes and afternoon singles matches.
The inaugural Watson Cup was held in October 2018 at Kiawah Island Golf Resort’s Ocean Course, site of the 1991 Ryder Cup dubbed the ‘War by the Shore’, and Tom Watson’s first South Carolina build, Cassique at Kiawah Island Club. South Carolina captured the inaugural match, defeating the East Lothians 19.5-16.5 after a day of four-ball matches, followed by singles matches the final day.
Modeled after the Walker Cup matches that have been contested between amateur golfers from the U.S. and Great Britain and Ireland since 1922, the Watson Cup matches are intended to celebrate the historic connection between South Carolina -- where golf was first played in America in the 1740s -- and the Edinburgh/East Lothian region of Scotland, from where equipment was first exported to the first American golfers in Charleston in 1739.
The matches will once again give South Carolina and Scottish juniors the opportunity to participate in the type of international team competition so revered by amateur and professional golfers in the Walker, Ryder, and Presidents Cups, and to gain experience in the different skills required to play golf on each side of the Atlantic.
The cup for which the matches are played, is named in honor of Tom Watson, the American who has won five Open Championships in Great Britain in the 1970s and 80s, including a win at Muirfield. Watson is widely regarded as the greatest American player of the game of links golf as it originated in Scotland. In addition to five Open Championships (one shy of the career record of six won by Englishman Harry Vardon), Watson also won two Masters, a US Open and 70 other professional tournaments. Watson, who has strong ties to South Carolina including two victories at the RBC Heritage Presented by Boeing in Hilton Head and course designs such as the River Club and Cassique Courses at Kiawah Island, was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1988.
The matches were developed by former SCJGA Chairman, SCGA Board of Directors member and Watson Cup Chairman Ben Zeigler, of Florence, who began implementing plans for the competition while attending a junior tournament in Gullane, Scotland in 2016.
“I have always been interested in the golf connection between South Carolina and the Edinburgh/East Lothian area of Scotland and was surprised that many Scots were completely unaware of it being the genesis of American golf,” Zeigler said. “At the same time, I was struck by how much the American juniors playing there had to learn from playing links golf, which is radically different from the game we play in America.”
Zeigler, along with staff from the SCJGA, began working with David Warren, Secretary of the East Lothian Junior Golf League to make the matches a reality.
“We are thrilled to have the opportunity to host South Carolina juniors in Scotland and to have made our trip with our juniors to South Carolina. Playing the game in America is an important part of the development of our juniors, and we are delighted to celebrate the historic connection between two beautiful and hospitable places to play and enjoy the game,” Warren said.
Warren added that historic documents relating to the golf connection between South Carolina and Edinburgh/East Lothian, including shipping manifests, showing that golf equipment was exported to Charleston in 1739 will be on display during the 2020 matches. Additionally, Warren reports, that eight-time Ryder Cup participant and three-time Ryder Cup Captain Bernard Gallacher will be “Honorary President” for Scotland’s 2020 team.
Douglas Connon and D.J. Russell will be Captains for the Scots while Golf Channel analyst Charlie Rymer will return for the South Carolina contingent as Captain this year. Rymer will be joined by Vice Captains Paul Woodbury, Stephen Behr and Puggy Blackmon. Blackmon is a former University of South Carolina men’s golf coach and director of golf operations. When he coached men’s golf at Georgia Tech, he coached future British Open champions David Duvall and Stewart Cink.
At Florence Country Club, Woodbury -- a former University of South Carolina star -- is the director of junior golf and instruction. And as for Behr, he is a former Clemson golf star and winner of the Byron Nelson Award while in college.