Why this week's Arnold Palmer Cup near Chicago is so important

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CHICAGO – Every college player begins his or her season knowing that a good year could help earn a spot onto the prestigious Arnold Palmer Cup team, where the United States challenges the world to three days of Ryder Cup-style match play.

Two teams, U.S. vs. International, 48 players, and one historic trophy.

This year the Arnold Palmer Cup will be played June 11-13 at Rich Harvest Farms in Sugar Grove, Illinois. Some players are Palmer Cup veterans while others are competing on their respective teams for time. Among the veterans is Julia Johnson, who helped lead Ole Miss to victory at the NCAA Championship last month in Arizona.

“I have never really been picked for stuff like this in junior golf, so to get picked my first time I was really thankful and excited and grateful for the opportunity to play in the USA," Johnson said. "This time I was even more excited because I knew what was to come. The atmosphere here is really cool. There is a lot of really good energy."

The Palmer Cup, once an all-male tournament, was co-founded by Arnold Palmer and Golf Coaches Association of America. The inaugural event was played in 1997 at the Bay Hill Club and Lodge in Orlando, Florida. Over the last 24 years, the Palmer Cup has been contested at some of the world’s greatest courses including The Old Course at St. Andrews, Royal County Down and Cherry Hills.

Palmer, the legendary late professional golfer who arguably is known more for his impeccable character than his 62 PGA Tour wins, started the Palmer Cup because of his commitment to youth development and amateur golf.

It wasn’t until 2018 where girls were added to the mix, and the Palmer Cup was played at Evian Resort Golf Club, becoming the only major tournament that featured men and women playing side-by-side as partners.

At the end of the tournament each year, both teams vote on one male competitor and one female who represented the character traits of Palmer the best – integrity, kindness, and sportsmanship. Winners of the victorious team gets to play in the Evian Championship, for the ladies, and the Arnold Palmer Invitational for the men. Former Arkansas player Dylan Kim was the first female to receive this award.

“It meant a lot to be that both teams voted to give me the opportunity. Once of the greatest things about competing is al the friendships we make along the way and the Arnold Palmer Cup is an amazing example of that,” Kim said.

Since the inaugural event, over 100 Arnold Palmer Cup alumni have gone on to earn cards on either the PGA Tour, European Tour or LPGA. Additionally, 29 of those players have represented Europe or the USA in the Ryder Cup or Presidents Cup, and more than 60 have claimed over 250 victories on the PGA or European Tours, including three major championships in 2020. One of those major winners included PGA Championship winner Collin Morikawa who played the Arnold Palmer Cup in 2017 and 2018.

“Your legacy has touched all aspects of the game…it’s good to be a part of Arnie’s Army!” Morikawa wrote on his Instagram following the 2018 Arnold Palmer Cup.

Arnold Palmer’s legacy continues to live on as the best college players in the world tee it up in a couple of days, a week full of camaraderie, excitement and, of course, pride in their country.