Created by supporters of amateur golf, The Concession Cup is an event designed to celebrate the game through international competition while giving back to worthy causes.
The Inaugural Concession Cup starts today, Thursday April 30, 2014 and runs through Saturday. The Walker Cup style event, honors the sportsmanship showed by Jack Nicklaus toward his opponent, Tony Jacklin, in the final match of the 1969 Ryder Cup. The conceded short putt halved their singles match and resulted in a 16-16 tie, the first draw in Ryder Cup history.
The gesture became known as “The Concession,” and resulted in a lifelong friendship between the two men and the co-design of The Concession Golf Club by Nicklaus and Jacklin. It also inspired this golf course and tournament.
Most golfers are too young to remember “The Concession,” but it’s something that neither Tony Jacklin nor Jack Nicklaus or their generation have ever forgotten.
The year was 1969, the event was the 18th Ryder Cup at the Royal Birkdale Golf Club in Soutport, England. The competition ended in a draw at 16 points each, when America’s Jack Nicklaus conceded a missable putt to Britain’s Tony Jacklin at the 18th hole in one of the most famous gestures of sportsmanship in all of sport. It was the first draw in Ryder Cup history, and the United States team retained the Cup.
The tournament was marred by considerable acrimony and unsportsmanlike behavior by players on both sides. Britain’s captain Eric Brown had instructed his players not to search for the opposition’s ball if it ended up in the rough. American Ken Still, in the first-day foursomes, had deliberately and regularly stood too close to Briton Maurice Bembridge as he was putting. During one of the fourballs on the second day, both captains had to come out and calm down the warring players. This led to Nicklaus conceding Jacklin’s final putt with the knowledge that the tournament would end in a draw.
Nicklaus also concedes that Jacklin probably wouldn’t have missed the putt, but you never know (It’s happened before and since under pressure). Nicklaus was playing in his 1st Ryder Cup and simply didn’t want to win that way.
“I think it was the greatest single sporting gesture in golf,” said Jacklin, who also brought relevance to the Ryder Cup by successfully captaining four teams. “If there was a greater one, I don’t know what it is.”
At the club on Tuesday, Nicklaus and Jacklin — who will represent the two sides as honorary captains, were joined by playing captains Vinny Giles (United States) and Garth McGimpsey (GB&I) to discuss the inaugural tournament.
According to Jacklin, the design and development of the golf course was the Second Concession. “When we decided to do this, when I had the idea, and approached Jack with the development to do it originally, I was actually happy to take a back seat. He’s done 200 or more golf courses around the world, so there’s not much he doesn’t know about golf course design. But immediately, I said that. He said, ‘No, no. If we’re going to do it, we’re going to do it together.’ So that’s the second concession.“
“To think we’d be standing here in this club talking about hosting a tournament inspired by something that happened 45 years ago, obviously it was very special what Jack did, and the hope is that it continues to be an influence through this event for years to come,” Jacklin said.
“If I hadn’t given him that putt, we wouldn’t be sitting here,” Nicklaus joked. “Here we are today getting ready to start a significant event. … It’s good for golf, it’s good for amateur golf, and it’s good for sportsmanship, camaraderie with the players.“
Both Giles and McGimpsey enter the competition with plenty of experience at high-level amateur golf competitions. Giles was a three-time All American at the University of Georgia and former U.S. Amateur, British Amateur and U.S. Senior Amateur champion with five appearances (one as a captain) in the Walker Cup. McGimpsey is one of Northern Ireland’s most decorated amateur golfers. His career includes winning the 1985 British Amateur and 1988 Eisenhower Trophy. McGimpsey also has represented Great Britain & Ireland in five Walker Cup competitions.
“The idea of representing your country just really resonates, and that’s a message I keep hearing, especially from the younger mid amateurs is how proud they are,” Giles said. “We have a young man who actually just won the Coleman [Invitational at Seminole G.C.] on Saturday named Patrick Christovich from New Orleans … he said, ‘Well, I was hoping some day I might be able to represent my country, but I never thought I’d be on a team where Jack Nicklaus was the captain.’ “
“Other than some chemistry, if Tony’s guys play well and Jack’s guys don’t, Tony’s guys are going to win and vice-versa,” Giles said.
Concession Club member Paul Azinger, who was the last winning American Ryder Cup captain, will serve as the tournament’s honorary chairman. He said, “I think this event has all the ingredients to be something special. When you have two iconic honorary captains like Jack and Tony, that’s huge. … I think this is going to be a great competition, and I’m really looking forward to it.“
For anyone that is looking for an exciting golf tournament without the crowds, this biennial competition is the place to be. Instead of pros, it will feature the top amateurs (25 and older) from the United States, Great Britain and Ireland. There might also be a few special guests as well! As part of the spirit of the club, all living Ryder Cup captains are extended honorary memberships to the club, which has Ryder Cup themes throughout. The club logo, in fact, is a silhouette of Nicklaus and Jacklin from that famous 1969 moment.
The Concession Cup features 18 amateur players representing the United States against 18 men from Great Britain and Ireland. The teams are comprised of eight mid-amateur players (25 and older), eight seniors (up to age 65) and two super senior competitors (65 and older). The three-day format calls for nine foursomes matches Thursday followed by nine four-ball matches Friday and 18 singles Saturday.
The public is welcome to attend free of charge. The tournament has several charities (the First Tee Tampa Bay and Sarasota/Manatee, Orphan’s Heart Foundation and the Nicklaus Children’s Health Care Foundation) tied into the amateur competition.