Royal County Down - “Where the mountains of Mourne sweep down to the sea” - plays host to the Palmer Cup this week. There might only be one golfing show in town this week with all eyes on Royal Portrush, but further down the coast Royal County Down will play host to the prestigious Palmer Cup.

This week’s sell-out Irish Open at Royal Portrush is the big draw, while many of the stars of the future will be at RCD for the annual team match between the top college players in the United States and Europe.

RCD hosts the event after recently been ranked the best course in the world outside the United States by Golf Digest magazine, while Golf World awarded it first place in its ranking of the top 100 courses in Britain and Ireland.  

Both eight man teams read like a who’s who of the elite amateur game. The visiting American team boasts no less than three Walker Cup players from last year’s contest at Royal Aberdeen. Respective world number two and three, Chris Williams and Patrick Rodgers, plus Blayne Barber form the backbone of Josh Gregory’s team.

Although there are no Irish players on the European side, it still shows plenty of strength and depth. Daan Huizing, favourite for last week’s British Amateur Championship, may have missed out as Rathmore’s Alan Dunbar got the job done in fine style at Royal Troon. However, the Dutch world number five comes into this week’s event having won the prestigious Lytham Trophy by 11 shots and the St Andrews Links Trophy by a staggering 14 shots.  

The Palmer Cup is played over three days from June 28th-30th.  The action opens on Thursday morning with four fourball matches, followed by four foursomes in the afternoon. Eight singles matches are then played on the second and third days.

The prestigious Ryder Cup-style event was initiated by the legendary Arnold Palmer in 1997 and has quickly become one of the standout team events on the amateur calendar.  

Other notables who have competed in the Palmer Cup before joining the paid ranks include; Graeme McDowell, Peter Lawrie, Michael Hoey, Gareth Maybin, Luke Donald, Rickie Fowler, Dustin Johnson, Webb Simpson and Hunter Mahan.

The match alternates between the States and Europe each year and the Americans won last year’s contest on home soil at the Stanwich Club, Connecticut and lead the series with eight wins against Europe’s six and one draw.

PALMER CUP  2012, Royal Country Down Golf Club (June 26th-28th 2012)

EUROPE: David Booth (England), Julien Brun (France), Sebastian Cappelen (Denmark), Daan Huizing (Netherlands), Robert Karlsson (Sweden), Thomas Pieters (Belgium), Graeme Robertson (Scotland), Pontus Widegren (Sweden).

Coaches: Richard Lindberg (Swedish National Coach), David Inglis (Scotland)

USA: Blayne Barber, Derek Ernst, Corbin Mills, Patrick Rodgers, Justin Thomas, James White, Chris Williams, Andrew Yun.

Coaches: Josh Gregory (Southern Methodist), Christian Newton (Georgia Tech)