Dating back to 1978, the original idea for the RAF v Tactical Air Combat (TAC) Challenge Cup – later to become the RAF v Air Combat Command (ACC) Challenge Cup – was the brainchild of Gp Capt Harry Archer, the then Chairman of the RAFGA. He had enjoyed a “hardship” exchange tour in the USA and, as a consequence, when it was proposed that the RAFGA should undertake an overseas tour, he immediately suggested that the States was the ideal place to go. There followed numerous correspondence between the RAFGA President, Air Chief Marshal Sir Peter Terry, and General Wilbur ‘Bill’ Creech, the then Tactical Air Command (TAC) commander. Creech AFB on the outskirts of Las Vegas is named after General Creech who is considered the Father of the Thunderbirds for his early support of the programme. It was agreed that a 14-man RAFGA side would conduct a 2-week tour in 1979, with Macdill AFB (Tampa, Florida), being chosen as the first venue. Macdill was to become a fine example of many memorable visits either side of the Atlantic.
Air Cdre Peter Scott led the first RAF team with General Bob Russ, later to become TAC commander, heading the USAF team. As becoming their status, the RAF team arrived in style as their President had arranged for a personal VC-10 aircraft to transport the side, leaving RAF Brize Norton with snow on the ground, flagging Bermuda for gin and tonics and finally arriving in the glorious Florida sunshine. The TAC team produced not only an excellent golf team but also a conjuror of amazing skill called Tom Portanova whose name is part of the folklore of this event. Colonel Tom retired from the USAF and sadly died in 1998 but not before he generously donated the Portanova Trophy to the RAFGA. The Portanova Trophy continues to be competed for at every RAF Championships and is awarded to the best placed Under 25-year old. Not only did Tom levitate an attractive Protocol Officer at a banquet at Kingsmill, he also broke the windscreen of an innocent passer-by at Langley who, by chance, was twice the size of Mike Tyson and just as menacing! The RAF contribution to affairs was to introduce the TAC team to 3 crates of Glenfiddich they had brought with them and to demonstrate that drink can be enjoyed without ice. The Glenfiddich Trophy was introduced as a fundamental part of proceedings thereafter. The next 25 years saw annual tours alternating on either side of the pond which resulted in some very strong friendships being forged within an intensely competitive golf arena.
It should be noted that between 1979 and 1992 the American team was generated from personnel within the Tactical Air Command (TAC), a Major USAF Command (one level down from the highest Command, HQ Air Force), which was based in Langley AFB, Virginia. After no competition in 1993, the team became the Air Combat Command (ACC) team in 1994 after the TAC’s personnel and function were subsumed within the ACC in 1992.