INCHEON, South Korea: Marching bands and traditional Korean drums greeted the US and International teams at a colorful 11th Presidents Cup opening ceremony in Incheon on Wednesday night.
Appropriately, given the name of the event, South Korean President Park Geun-Hye and former US President George W. Bush gave speeches after the players were treated to a perfectly choreographed ceremonial display for the first Presidents Cup to be held in Asia.
After the unveiling of the golden trophy at the Songdo Convensia just a kilometre from the Jack Nicklaus Golf Club venue, Bush spoke to salute the long ties between the US and South Korea.
He recalled that during the Korean War almost exactly 65 years ago, on September 15, 1950, General Douglas MacArthur led US troops on a surprise landing in Incheon which changed the course of the conflict and enabled Seoul to be recaptured.
Bush also noted that the teams were playing for pride, with all money generated donated to charity in the biennial event which has raised more than $32 million for good causes since its inception in 1994.
Each of the 24 players nominates a charity to receive a portion of funds raised.
Other speakers included golf legend Jack Nicklaus, who designed the course on which the players will battle over the next four days in what he called “the greatest sporting event”.
“We have the world’s number one and two in Jordan Spieth and Jason Day,” said Nicklaus, “and the first players from Thailand and India to play.”
International team captain Nick Price said his team were “so excited to be in Asia for the first time”.
And his opposite number on the US team Jay Haas thanked Park for her support in bringing the event to her country.
Both captains introduced their respective teams as animated caricature “avatars” of each player were displayed on a giant screen.
The Presidents Cup has been dominated by the US, who have only lost once in the 10 previous editions of the match play team event.
Play begins on Thursday with five foursome matches and continues Friday with five fourballs.
Saturday sees four more foursomes and fourball matches before reaching a climax on Sunday with 12 singles.