Five-time Open champion Tom Watson has put his name to a new trophy to be contested bi-annually between the best young golfers in Edinburgh and East Lothian and their counterparts in South Carolina.
The first staging of the Watson Cup will be on the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island, venue for the 1991 Ryder Cup, and the Watson-designed Cassique Course at the Kiawah Island Club in October.
Muirfield and Royal Burgess will then jointly-host the first return match in 2020, with Lothians legend Bernard Gallacher having agreed to be the honorary president for that exciting encounter.
For both matches, which will be played in a Walker Cup-style format over two days, players from both the East Lothian Junior League and the Edinburgh Junior League will be joining forces.
“Together with the Edinburgh Junior Golf League, we are extremely grateful to the owners, managers and members of these four beautiful and historic courses for agreeing to host the first two Watson Cup matches,” said David Warren, secretary of the East Lothian Junior League.
“This new event will give both the South Carolina and Scottish juniors the opportunity to play a match over two days and also the chance to experience the different skills required to play golf on either side of the Atlantic.”
Watson claimed the third of his Claret Jug triumphs at Muirfield in 1980 and has been revered by fans on subsequent visits to Scotland’s Golf Coast.
“This event has come about from a visit I made to the Heritage Classic (a PGA Tour event) at Hilton Head, where I got in touch with Ben Ziegler, who is chairman of the South Carolina Junior Golf Association,” added Warren.
“His son won his age group in the US Kids Golf European Team Championships in East Lothian and our friendship started from that.
“I met with the South Carolina Junior Golf Association committee and it’s great that we now have the Watson Cup in place. It’s great that Tom agreed to have his name on the trophy as we wanted someone of that stature.
“It is also fantastic that Bernard Gallacher will be the honorary president for the 2020 match. He started his golf career as a junior in the Lothians, winning the Lothians Boys Championship in 1965.
“Then, at Muirfield, he won the Scottish Open Stroke-Play Championship in 1967 when he was just 18. He is also honorary member at Royal Burgess so that’s also a nice connection.”
As is the fact that both Muirfield and Kiawah Island have both hosted a Ryder Cup and Ziegler added: “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 that South Carolina was the genesis of American golf.
“At the same time, I was struck by how American Juniors playing in Scotland, could learn much about playing links golf.”
Earlier this year, a group of players representing the East Lothian Junior League made a trip to Pinehurst. “That was a life-changing experience for them,” said Warren, “and so will this new event.”