After 1997's World Cup triumph, Paul McGinley thought he and his partner, Pádraig Harrington, should be accorded the privilege of defending the title.
IN the full flush of a marvellous World Cup triumph at Kiawah Island in 1997, Paul McGinley thought he and his partner, Pádraig Harrington, should be accorded the privilege of defending the title. What was then a modest aspiration, has since become one of the most significant happenings in the history of team golf.
The Dublin duo will represent Ireland at Sandy Lane, Barbados, this week for a record 10th successive year. And they'll be doing so as the top seeds at a venue with a distinctly Irish flavour.
With prize money of $4 million, at a resort where Irish financiers Dermot Desmond and JP McManus have pumped in $400 million, the figures are somewhat different from those of 1960, when staging costs were in the region of £30,000, for the Canada Cup at Portmarnock.
The current Irish representatives clearly enjoy each other's company. In fact, when a jaded Harrington felt the need of a total break from the game after the Volvo Masters five weeks ago, he still couldn't contemplate missing the World Cup. In this context, it should be noted that their great Irish predecessors, Christy O'Connor Sr and Harry Bradshaw, who captured the title in 1958, played together only four times.
Interestingly, when Himself and The Brad triumphed in Mexico City, Peter Alliss, who was there as a member of the England team, reported the Irish victory for the Daily Express, in the absence of travelling scribes. In South Carolina, 39 years on, the latest Irish heroes talked of O'Connor to the world's electronic and print media, as a hugely inspirational figure. "We play with Christy in Links Society outings during the winter months," explained Harrington.
Frenchmen Jean Garaialde and Bernard Pascassio, were partners on eight occasions, including four in a row. Australian giants, Peter Thomson and Kel Nagle, also played four in a row together, on the way to seven in all. And the doughty Welsh duo of Dai Rees and Dave Thomas, were partners for six years in a row. Meanwhile, Gary Player represented South Africa on 16 occasions but with eight different partners.
Roberto de Vincenzo was especially interesting for having represented Mexico on three occasions as a resident, before going on to play 15 times for his native Argentina, including four appearances with the gifted Fidel de Luca. Apart from winning the 1979 Brazil Open as a venerable 58-year-old, the latter was so successful that on visits to these islands, envious rivals referred to him amusingly as 'Filthy Luca.'
England's Harry Weetman also represented two countries in the event, by partnering Bobby Locke in South Africa's line-up for the inaugural staging in 1953.
Over the years, the Americans were very much the team to beat. Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer won four times in five years from 1963 to 1967, but Davis Love and Fred Couples did even better, capturing four in a row from 1992.
In terms of overall appearances, however, the kings of the Canada Cup/World Cup remain the Scottish pairing of John Panton and Eric Brown, who played together on no fewer than 11 occasions, though only eight - from 1955 to 1962 - were successive. So, two more appearances after this week would give Harrington and McGinley undisputed dominance.
In its rich history, the World Cup is remembered for a typically folksy Sam Snead at Wentworth in 1956 addressing the assembled gathering from the winner's podium with the words: "Ladies and gentlemen - and that goes for all you admirals and generals and everyone."
Three years later in Melbourne, special presentations of silver cigarette cases went to the Indonesian golfers, Salim and Sjamsudin, whose lowest round was 87 each. On arriving with no shoes and only seven clubs between them, they were kitted out by their hosts with new spikes and clubs. And when asked if they would like a practice round with the great Snead, their reply through an interpreter was: "Who's he?"
Then in 1968 in Rome, Lee Trevino acknowledged the talent of Taiwanese debutant Lu Liang-Huan, by saying: "When I was a marine stationed in Okinawa, we used to get up a golf game and Lu would beat my brains out. Beat me 8 and 7 one time." So it came as no shock to Supermex when the same Mr Lu, gave him a battle royal in the Open at Birkdale three years later, and went on to help Taiwan to World Cup success in 1972, on its return to Melbourne.
Athens in 1979 marked the appearance of two players separated in age by 52 years. Marko Vovk, a 15-year-old Yugoslav, carded 99 97 90 95 for 381, while the 67-year-old Belgian, Flory van Donck, who had won the individual title in Dublin, bade farewell with a creditable 302.
This was also where South Africa's apartheid policy had its first really significant impact on golf. Ironically, their representatives, Hugh Baiocchi and Dale Hayes, played in the pro-am at the Glyfada course with a Greek government minister. But before the competition proper, they were banned by a host government fearful of angering the anti-apartheid movement and so jeopardising the chance of staging a future Olympic Games.
As it happened, South Africa's participation in Bogota, Colombia, the following year, effectively scuppered the 1981 event, which was to have come to Waterville. And they remained outside the fold until Madrid in 1992.
This week's tournament, involving 28 nations playing fourballs on Thursday and Saturday and foursomes on Friday and Sunday, takes place on the 7,060-yard, par-71 Country Club course, with a very interesting finish of 5 5 3 4 3 - the par-three 18th being a suitably testing 195 yards.
Bradley Dredge and Stephen Dodd of Wales are defending the title but with seeding based on the world ranking of the top player from each country, the leading 18 teams are:
1 Ireland (Harrington 8, McGinley 63); 2 England (L Donald 9, D Howell 15); 3 Sweden (H Stenson 12, C Pettersson 34); 4 Scotland (C Montgomerie 17, M Warren 137); 5 Argentina (A Cabrera 21, A Romero 124); 6 USA (S Cink 25, JJ Henry 65); 7 Trinidad and Tobago (S Ames 37, R Ames -); 8 South Africa (R Sabbatini 41, R Sterne 206); 9 Canada (M Weir 44, J Rutledge 329); 10 Denmark (T Bjorn 47, S Hansen 153); 11 Wales (B Dredge 52, S Dodd 88); 12 Spain (M-A Jimenez 68, G Fernandez 131); 13 Australia (J Senden 73, M Hensby 144); 14 Korea (S K Ho 86, C Wi 179); 15 France (R Jacquelin 104, J Van de Velde 164); 16 Colombia (C Villegas 107, M Morizalde -); 17 Japan (H Tanihara 116, T Hiratsuka 125); 18 Germany (B Langer 149, M Siem 208).