In 1997 Arnold Palmer was approached by the Golf Coaches Association of America regarding lending his name to an international collegiate event between the United States and Great Britain and Ireland. The event would use a Ryder Cup-style format and bring together the top eight collegiate players in the United States against their counterparts from GB&I. Palmer, a former collegiate player himself, has been called America’s greatest Ambassador for the game of golf. With his blessing and the support of the Arnold Palmer Golf Company, the inaugural event was played at his own Bay Hill Club in Florida in June 1997. “I had long thought that an international competition such as this would enrich the lives of young men through the universal bond of the great game of golf," said Mr. Palmer.
Great venues have highlighted the competition since its inception in 1997. After Bay Hill, the Arnold Palmer Cup was next contested in Scotland in 1998 on the Old and New Courses at St. Andrews. In subsequent years the matches have been played at such historic venues as The Honors Course, Royal Liverpool, Baltusrol, Doonbeg, Cassique, Ballybunion, Whistling Straits-The Irish, Prestwick, Caves Valley, Glasgow Golf Club Gailes Links, Cherry Hills, Royal Portrush Golf Club, The Stanwich Club, Royal Country Down Golf Club, Wilmington Country Club, Walton Heath, Rich Harvest Farms, Formby Golf Club and Atlanta Athletic Club. The inaugural expanded Arnold Palmer Cup will make the event’s first visit to continental Europe at Evian Resort Golf Club in 2018 and will be staged at The Alotian Club in 2019 and Lahinch Golf Club in 2020.
Upon conclusion of the 2002 event at Doonbeg in Ireland, a decision was made to alter the team composition by including European players with those from Great Britain and Ireland. The affects of this decision significantly changed the Arnold Palmer Cup in its international appeal and competitiveness of the matches. Teams were expanded to 10 players each starting in 2013. Currently the United States leads the all-time series 11-9-1. In 2018, the Arnold Palmer Cup will expand to include United States men's and women's against collegiate golfers from around the world.
Many outstanding collegians that have participated in the Arnold Palmer Cup. A total of 53 former Arnold Palmer Cup players have claimed 195 victories on the PGA or European Tours including U.S. Open Champions Dustin Johnson, Graeme McDowell, Lucas Glover and Webb Simpson, Open Champion Ben Curtis, PGA Champion Justin Thomas, Daniel Berger, Jonas Blixt, Jonathan Byrd, Alejandro Cañizares, Patrick Cantlay, Kevin Chappell, Rhys Davies, Bryson DeChambeau, Luke Donald, Paul Dunne, Derek Ernst, Matt Every, Gonzalo Fdez.-Castaño, Rickie Fowler, Bill Haas, Chesson Hadley, Brian Harman, Russell Henley, J.J. Henry, Michael Hoey, J.B. Holmes, Billy Horschel, Charles Howell III, Billy Hurley III, Scott Jamieson, Dustin Johnson, Chris Kirk, Matt Kuchar, Peter Lawrie, David Lingmerth, Joost Luiten, Hunter Mahan, Pablo Martin, Bryce Molder, Francesco Molinari, Alex Norén, Ryan Moore, Jon Rahm, Richie Ramsay, Rory Sabbatini, Brandt Snedeker, Chris Stroud, Michael Thompson, D.J. Trahan, Bo Van Pelt, Nick Watney and Oliver Wilson.
Arnold Palmer Cup alumni have also represented well in the Ryder and Presidents Cups. The 25 Arnold Palmer Cuppers that have represented their countries in these evens include Berger, Chappell, Curtis, Donald, Fowler, Glover, Haas, Henry, Holmes, Howell, Johnson, Kirk, Kuchar, Mahan, McDowell, Molinari, Moore, Jeff Overton, Pieters, Sabbatini, Simpson, Snedeker, Thomas, Watney and Wilson.