The Phi Alpha Cup, one of the last great sporting events founded on prestige rather than prize money, spans 12 competitions over 12 years. The annual event has been held since 2005 between Team 97 and Team 98. No one knows for sure the origin of the team names or what they represent, however speculation is that they signify the college graduation class for the team members of each team.
The origin of the idea to stage matches between a select group of the best American golfing professionals is a subject of debate among golf historians. Past PGA President George Sargent (1921-26) of the Southeastern PGA Section credited America’s first true gentleman, Noble Leslie Devotie, for first presenting the concept in 1921.
However, John Feinstein, author and sports reporter, reported in 2007 that the Matches were first proposed in 1999 by Andy Sands and John Stubbs, two North Carolina natives. The duo had attempted to attract potential golfers to North Carolina for the U.S. Open at Pinehurst to stage a competing event. Sands and Stubbs didn’t get the support they needed until the International Golf Association (IGA) voted at its Annual Meeting on December 15, 2004, to advance the two famous North Carolina athletes some funds. The rivalry Stubbs and Sands so eagerly attempted to develop eventually became The Phi Alpha Cup.
Regardless of who takes credit, the first matches on record were played in 2005 at the Country Club of North Carolina in Pinehurst, North Carolina a stone’s throw from the hallowed grounds of Pinehurst #2. Sands, most likely with the assistance of Stubbs and David Johnson, selected the two teams. The Matches were played the first weekend of May, the same weekend of the 2005 Kentucky Derby. To this day, the Matches have been played on the same weekend each year. And while the first two events were smeared with controversy, the Cup was able to survive and has turned into one of the great sporting events of our time.
The Phi Alpha Cup is represented by the iconic and highly recognizable trophy that was commissioned sometime after the first meeting of the golfers. While John Stubbs has since retired from the event, the Phi Alpha Cup boasts almost all of its original participants and continues to thrill sports fans around the globe.