Two men on a golf green
The writer of this article and Team USA player Farhad Heydari competing with the Danish former professional goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel in 2022; fotoswiss.com/giancarlo cattaneo

Game changer

The St. Moritz Celebrity Golf Cup biennial golfing clash between the USA and Europe is legendary. One participant recalls his experience and looks forward to competing again in 2024. Words by Farhad Heydari.

The setting is lauded in legend and lore. A masterpiece featuring majestic mountains, Alpine meadows and crystalline lakes, crafted by nature’s finest hands, it is a distractingly beautiful and breathtaking summer tableau.

I am arriving in St. Moritz by rail – after all, the journey is one of Europe’s more memorable – and returning to this rarefied hamlet close to my heart, not as one would expect carrying skis but instead hauling a set of golf clubs, I am full of excitement and anticipation.

A former collegiate golfer, I was joining a roster of keen amateur golfers, elite former and active sportsmen and women, together with notables from the worlds of media, the arts and finance, to compete in the illustrious St. Moritz Celebrity Golf Cup in support of the Ryder Cup European Development Trust. 

This legendary lakeside resort has always been at the forefront of altruism. So to be asked to join the select rota to play the great game and to contribute to the festivities, frivolities and fun for such a good cause, was a great honour.

Three golf balls on a green
Three Badrutt’s Palace golf balls on the green; Badrutt’s Palace Hotel

But, as I am about to learn, the St. Moritz Celebrity Golf Cup engenders so much more than eagles and birdies. “It has become a not-to-be missed biennial event on the calendar,” explains Ian Randell, Team Europe Captain. “Competitive team golf is played, lifetime friendships and memories are made and the whole event is filled with fun and laughter.” He tells me this following a performance of the alphorn – the traditional Swiss long horn – on the terrace of Badrutt’s Palace’s Chesa Veglia, a farmhouse dating to 1658 that today purveys Italian pizzas and Swiss specialties. We are here enjoying local treats and sipping champagne on the opening evening of the tournament.

Randell, who is also Chief Executive of the Confederation of Professional Golf and member of the Management Board at Ryder Cup Europe, continues: “Everything about it is first class, from the warm welcome, the wonderful golf courses and the historic and luxurious Badrutt’s Palace, all in the spectacular surroundings of St. Moritz.”

It is a consensus that is shared by his counterpart, Jerry King, Team USA Captain. “The words that come to mind are world-class,” he exclaims. “It starts with the visual beauty of the place, then continues with the quality of the participants and the fun experiences we share collectively. Great golf, food and hospitality at the highest level, coupled with the elegance and class of my favourite hotel and spa, Badrutt’s Palace. No wonder, it’s always a challenge to leave this magical place!”

A man and woman sat in a golf buggy
Sheila Gut-Lee and Pablo Roemmers; fotoswiss.com/giancarlo cattaneo

Play time

The three-day extravaganza takes place under the watchful eye of Susan Feaster, President at the St. Moritz Celebrity Golf Cup. Thanks to an outsized address book of top-notch global contacts across disparate sectors, she rosters in everyone from actors, such as Oliver and James Phelps; former professional athletes, including footballer Diego Forlán; NFL legend Seth Joyner; Scotland’s rugby stars Max and Thom Evans; Fortune 500 executives; and even a top chef, Geoffrey Zakarian, who happens to be a keen golfer.

In all, just 72 official invitations for each tournament are proffered and the handpicked invitees have just a week to accept. Guests are expected to cover their own costs, including their travel expenses, and none of the celebrities receive payment for their participation.

Golfers tackle the fairways and greens of Zuoz-Madulain and Samedan, the two courses that comprise the Engadin Golf Club, Switzerland’s oldest, for a competition that is anchored by conviviality and centred around boundless generosity. Each day is interposed with music-filled barbecues, leisurely lunches and fun evening events, and there is downtime to relax, reflect and ruminate. 

“I’m very excited about playing golf in such a picturesque setting” says the actor Oliver Phelps, of Harry Potter fame, who will be taking part in the St. Moritz competition for the first time. “I expect the golf to be friendly but competitive, as it always should be. I think the camaraderie will add to the experience. Being able to bring my wife to an event like this is a bonus and one of the few times she encourages me to play golf… That may have something to do with her enjoying soaking up the sun by the hotel pool in peace!”

Ramun Ratti, Chief Executive at Engadin Golf Club, neatly sums up the appeal of the tournament for many of the participants: “The most special element is the teambuilding camaraderie and the spirit that is built between the two teams and participants, much like in the original Ryder Cup. And this occurs between people from across the world and from different cultures, regardless of whether they are a ‘celebrity’ or an amateur golfer. At the end of the event, you feel as though you are part of a family.”

Men and women dressed for a black-tie gala
Grant and Whitney Shifflet with Josh and Melissa Scobee at the black-tie gala at Badrutt’s Palace; fotoswiss.com/giancarlo cattaneo

A Grand Finale

A black-tie awards gala, hosted at Badrutt’s Palace, closes the memorable event, which in 2022 raised 100,000CHF at auction to benefit children in war-torn Ukraine and featured a moving speech by the former Heavyweight Boxing World Champion Wladimir Klitschko. 

It is a touching evening that left many of us in a reflective mood, including American former NFL player Seth Joyner: “When you play professionally, there is something about being blessed to do what you dream of doing. And there is a responsibility that goes along with that – to reach back and help those who are a little less fortunate, those who are trying to achieve their dreams. It’s always a pleasure to do something, anything, that has a charity foundation to it.”

As we depart the following day, we reflect on the new friendships made, the fellowship that is golf, and the competitiveness that the former professional athletes bring to the fore. “What an amazing event,” says Forlán. “This year was great but next time will be even sweeter.” When asked what he means, he exclaims: “That’s when I’m hoping I can beat my buddy Farhad.” Even the professionals must live in hope. 

Visit badruttspalace.com/package/celebrity-golf-cup/

A man playing golf on a green in St. Moritz
Cyprien Comoy; fotoswiss.com/giancarlo cattaneo

BOOK YOUR PLACE NOW

• Three nights’ accommodation at Badrutt’s Palace, with entry to the St. Moritz Golf Cup on Monday and Tuesday

• All day hospitality for the two tournament days, a practice round, and attendance for the player and a companion to the Players Night and Black-Tie Gala, plus a charity donation. 

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