The idea of a World Amateur Team Championship and the World Amateur Golf Council grew out of a suggestion that the USGA received to consider the possibility of a team match between the USA and Japan in 1957.
The USGA, which was fortunate to have received many such invitations from other countries, simply could not accept them all. The USGA instead suggested a team competition that would bring together the best players of all countries, accommodating all possible interests. Even those American advocates of adding golf to the Olympics seemed satisfied with the World Team Championship idea.
In January 1958, the USGA Executive Committee approved in principle a plan for such a championship. That March, a group of USGA representatives, including USGA President John D. Ames, met with officials of The Royal & Ancient Golf Club to discuss the plan. St. Andrews was proposed as the site of the first championship later that year. The R&A joined in implementing the idea. In May, representatives of the national amateur golf associations of 35 countries attended a planning conference in Washington, D.C., and formed the World Amateur Golf Council. The council had 32 member organizations, and planned the first championship.
USA President Dwight D. Eisenhower received the delegates in the Rose Garden of the White House and consented to the naming of the championship prize as the Eisenhower Trophy. Eisenhower endorsed the concept, saying, “Both officially and personally, I am interested in the plan advanced by the USGA for an amateur team golf championship among nations. I visualize it, as you do, as a potent force for establishing goodwill and friendship between yet another segment of the populations of nations.”
The championship received yet another stroke of good luck when Bob Jones agreed to be captain of the first USA Team. Jones had taken the first leg of his 1930 Grand Slam at St. Andrews by winning the British Amateur, but 22 years had passed since he had last visited there.
The first championship was played on the Old Course of St. Andrews in October 1958, and 115 players, representing 29 countries, competed. Australia won in a playoff with the USA. The lowest individual scores for the 72 holes were 301s by William Hyndman III of the USA, Bruce Devlin of Australia and Reid Jack of Great Britain and Ireland.
Jack Nicklaus, who represented the USA in 1960 at Merion Golf Club (East Course), in Ardmore, Pa., holds the 72-hole individual scoring record of 269, although individual champions are not recognized.
The United States of America has prevailed in 13 of the 24 competitions and Great Britain and Ireland have won four times, while countries as diverse in the world of golf as Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand and Sweden have each captured the Eisenhower Trophy.
The World Amateur Team Championship has now been conducted in 24 nations. In 2003, the name of the organization was changed from the World Amateur Golf Council to the International Golf Federation.
Espirito Santo Cup
What began as a proposal for a match in 1964 between the USA and France grew into the Women’s World Amateur Team Championship.
The impetus for this championship was an invitation by the French Golf Federation for the USA Curtis Cup Team to stop off in France for an informal match after that year’s Curtis Cup Match in Wales.
The USGA accepted the invitation, but also suggested inviting other nations to create a women’s counterpart to the World Amateur Team Championship. That event for men’s teams had begun in 1958 after an invitation from Japan to establish a match between the two nations.
The French were delighted to sponsor the inaugural women’s championship and arranged for it to be played at the St. Germain Golf Club, near Paris, in October 1964. The event, under the chairmanship of Vicomtesse de Saint-Sauveur, was a triumph.
A total of 25 teams and 75 players participated, which instantly established the competition as a member of international golf’s family of championships. Spectator enthusiasm at the first championship was keen, since the host team prevailed over the USA by one stroke.
The French player Catherine Lacoste, who would later become a heroine of the amateur game when she won the 1967 U.S. Women’s Open, was a big factor in the excitement in her home country. Her final-round 73 secured the Espirito Santo Trophy. Lacoste tied with Carol Sorenson of the USA at 294 for low individual honors.
Jenny Chuasiriporn of the USA lowered the 72-hole individual scoring record in 1998. She shot 276 at Prince of Wales Country Club in Santiago, Chile, two shots better than the score returned by countrywoman Wendy Ward four years earlier at The National Golf Club in Versailles, France.
In 1966, the World Amateur Golf Council assumed the role of conducting future Women’s World Amateur Team Championships. Since its second-place finish in the inaugural, the USA has dominated, winning 13 times. Spain (1986, 1992), France (1964, 2000), Australia (1978, 2002) and Sweden (2004, 2008) are the only other multiple victors.