Introduced in 1985, the Alfred Dunhill Cup immediately established itself as the world professional team championship with Australia defeating the United States in the first year, and then successfully defending their title in 1986 defeating Japan in the final. United States became the first team to win the title on three occasions when they won the title in 1996. South Africa became the second team to successfully defend their title in 1998 and the first to win with the same three players – Ernie Els, David Frost and Retief Goosen. England and Ireland have also won the Alfred Dunhill Cup twice, with Canada, Scotland, Spain and Sweden taking the title once.
The magnificent Old Course at St. Andrews has been the home of the Alfred Dunhill Cup since the inaugural year and will again host the event in 2000 on October 12-15. It has achieved a highly successful partnership providing some memorable matches: - In 1993 the Untied States team of Fred Couples, John Daly and Payne Stewart, all past Major Champions, edged out England 2-1 in the final with Fred Couples beating Nick Faldo in the key match 68 – 69 to maintain his unbeaten sequence throughout the week. In the 1991 final Sweden just pipped South Africa 2-1 with Mats Lanner defeating Gary Player in the final match at the first extra hole after the two had completed the regulation 18 holes with tied scores.
This year Spain return as the defending champions following their magnificent victory over Australia in the final 12 months ago. Indeed Spain had only reached the final on one previous occasion, in 1998 when defeated by South Africa, but the team of Sergio Garcia, Miguel Angel Jiménez and José Maria Olazábal went one better last year to beat Ernie Els, David Frost and Reteif Goosen in a thrilling final.
There have also been some intriguing matches in the earlier rounds with some of the lesser-known golfing nations contributing to the unique atmosphere and excitement of the Alfred Dunhill Cup by upsetting the favourites. In 1993 Paraguay defeated Scotland’s team of Colin Montgomerie, Sam Torrance and Gordon Brand Jnr, and in 1996 Scotland again lost to the outsiders, this time India, who were playing in the competition for the first time. In previous years France have knocked out both Australia and the United States in the first round.
In addition the Alfred Dunhill Cup has produced some brilliant individual performances. Greg Norman had been unbeaten in eleven matches through 1985, 1986 and 1987 when he met Curtis Strange in the 3rd place play-off in 1987; Curtis not only defeated Greg but completed an astonishing record round of 62 over the Old Course. In 1988, two years before his Open Championship victory at St. Andrews Nick Faldo won all four of his matches in a total of 20 under par (65, 67, 70, 66) and the following year the 1989 Open Champion Mark Calcavecchia had rounds of 71, 72, 69, 67 and 66 to help the United States team of Curtis Strange and Tom Kite win the Alfred Dunhill Cup for the first time. In 1995 Nick Price won all five of his matches to help to help Zimbabwe reach the final with a record 20 under par aggregate breaking 70 in each round (67, 68, 68, 69 and 68). Retief Goosen won all five matches in successive years to help South Africa win the title in 1997 and 1998 and last year passed Greg Norman’s record of 11 successive victories..
But perhaps the moment that best emphasises what the Alfred Dunhill Cup is all about was in the very first year when Peter Akakasiaka, a young aspiring professional from Nigeria, played Seve Ballesteros, who was then the number one golfer in the world, fulfilling a dream for a young man more used to the browns of Lagos than the greens of the finest links in the world.