This year marks the 55th holding of the Goldwater Cup Matches. The event puts the top 24 amateurs in Arizona against the top 24 PGA Professionals from golf clubs throughout the state in a Ryder Cup-style format to see who earned the title as the Goldwater Cup Champions. The Goldwater Cup is named after Bob Goldwater, who in 1939 did something very special that changed the Arizona golf industry forever.
In 1939, Bob Goldwater was asked to be a part of a very special group known as the Thunderbirds. The Thunderbirds were, and are still known for running events to generate revenue for charities, scholarships, and many other deserving causes in Arizona. As the newest member of the Thunderbirds, Bob Goldwater pushed to revitalize a golf event in Phoenix, at the time nobody wanted the discontinued Phoenix Open Golf Tournament. Bob, who was so passionate about golf, could not convince his peers that this was the direction to move. The Thunderbirds were willing to do anything, but they were united (mostly) in that they did not want to be involved in a sports event. Fortunately for them Bob was the Thunderbird, who was assigned to meet with the Chamber of Commerce and make suggestions about what new projects the group would take on. The Chamber members listened to Bob speak ardently about revitalizing a golf tournament and what he thought this event could do for the community, the Chamber, and for Arizona… He spoke with such conviction and did so well they approved the event. When Bob reported back to his fellow Thunderbirds, they were so unhappy with what he had done they decided to make him do all the work for the event. He printed tickets, secured the site (his home course of Phoenix Country Club), gathered sponsors, and even called some players. With his hard work and vision, the Thunderbirds held a tournament in 1939 that was won by a friend of Bob Goldwater named Byron Nelson. The second place finish went to none other than Goldwater’s pal-Ben Hogan. These two great players starting the tradition of the modern day Phoenix Open. The Phoenix Open has grown leaps and bounds and has been able to raise tens of millions of dollars for Arizona Charities. Rightfully so Bob is known as “The Father of the Phoenix Open” and his dedication to the game, the people, and the state of Arizona is remembered.
In 1961, Bob created a golf event in which the best amateurs of the state would compete against the best local club professionals which is known as the Goldwater Cup. Phoenix Country Club, which opened in 1899, hosted the inaugural event and many since including the previous two years. It was Mr. Goldwater who would personally call and invite you to participate in these matches and it was an honor earned by playing well throughout the year. Professionals and amateurs alike would anxiously await “the call” to have the opportunity to represent their association and hopefully help their team win the annual match play event. This year marks the 55th Goldwater Cup and the teams from the Arizona Golf Association (AGA) and the Southwest Section PGA are set. Although Bob is not personally making the call inviting the players to the event, these associations are making sure the history and tradition of this event are remembered and continued.
Bob Goldwater passed away in 2006 at age 96, having lived an extraordinary and meaningful life. What may be missed most of all is the chance to listen to Bob during the Players Dinner the night before the Goldwater Cup matches begin. Whether it was a limerick, a story, or a joke, Bob could capture any group. This year all the players representing each team will gather at Phoenix Country Club and dine together as friends. Everyone in this room has a similar idea in mind…to reflect on the past, enjoy stories told about Bob Goldwater and the wonderful game of golf and relish in the moment that they have earned-becoming a member of the Goldwater Cup Team. The Goldwater Cup Matches give the player a chance to earn a point for their association, but more importantly it gives the person an opportunity to be a part of history.
As history set on the 2015 matches, in the Open Division the AGA found themselves on top, beating the professionals 14 ½ points to 9 ½ points. However, in the Senior Divison the PGA Professionals posted 17 ½ points to the amateurs 6 ½ points to win their Division.
By Frank Calvin