Thank goodness for the time difference between Cheshire and Iowa. It means that on Saturday afternoon I can cheer Whittington Heath’s women on against Wychwood Park, near Crewe, in the Annodata Matchplay UK Golf Club Classic, then settle down in front of the telly to roar on Europe’s women against the USA in the Solheim Cup. It’ll be an emotionally draining weekend but fun.
Away matches are always tough, whatever the level and the emotions will be the same on both sides of the Atlantic, even if the skill level and the crowd noise won’t be. Stomachs will be knocking, knees churning and brains scrambled (even spectators and commentators suffer meltdown to one degree or another!) as players vie to play their best when it matters and not let their teammates down.
There was plenty of drama towards the end of the USPGA Championship last Sunday (congrats to Justin Thomas on winning his first major) but nothing comes close to team matchplay. At Little Aston last Friday, I found myself welling up as Ireland beat England to win the women’s home internationals, lots of memories flooding through and making me very teary. I was also tired of course – late blogging the night before and on the 33rd hole of 34 that day, trolley-pulling for the delightful Maria Dunne. We (!) were on the 17th, two down in the last match against fellow Curtis Cupper Rochelle Morris, when word came through that Ireland had won. Are you sure? Weren’t we struggling? Hadn’t our captain Clodagh said, on the 9th tee, “We need your point?”
She had indeed but her team turned things around, with the most spectacular recovery coming from Annabel Wilson, a deceptively innocent-looking 16-year old, who came back from 5 down after 9 to beat her Vagliano Trophy teammate Sophie Lamb on the last. Lamb, who’d travelled down to the Midlands from Kingsbarns, where she’d pipped the all-conquering Leona Maguire as leading amateur at the Ricoh Women’s British Open, had nothing left to give, running out of steam at the end of a long season.
Dunne, elated, won the 17th to prolong her match, much to the exasperation of the Little Aston member manning the main scoreboard, who inadvertently issued an all-points bulletin when he used his walkie-talkie to ask his wife to bring him a pint. Dunne lost in the end but couldn’t stop smiling, “We won at Cruden Bay in 2003 when I made my debut and now we’ve won again, in my last match.” What could be better? And thanks for making my week Maria.
Impressively, Ireland were without two of their best players, Olivia Mehaffey and Maguire, the British champion, who has just won the Mark H McCormack Medal, awarded annually to the leading woman in the World Amateur Golf Ranking, for the third year in a row. Lydia Ko is the only other player to manage that.At Little Aston, England won the girls’ title, with Ireland second and then it was over to Enville, near Stourbridge, for the British Girls’ Championship (The British Boys’ is at Nairn), an exercise in stamina as well as skill for the youngsters of the home nations.
I suppose I should mention that the LET is looking for a new chief executive to replace Ivan Khodabakhsh. Mark Lichtenhein, recently appointed chairman of the LET board and a refugee from Keith Pelley’s shiny new European Tour, will be in charge for the time being. At least Mark (my spelling has its limits) knows about golf and won’t be baffled by the goings-on at the Solheim, unlike one of his predecessors, who had no idea what was happening as Dalmahoy went daft in 1992 (see Mo’s post).
Many of those girls and women at Little Aston have their heart set on a career as a tournament professional and you’d think there’d be a place for a flourishing European tour in the greater golfing scheme of things but hope is sinking not springing. “Who’d want the job?” asked a man hardened by long experience and false promises. Well, not long ago, Mo and I met a woman who said she’d love to give it a go. Trouble is she’d just been head-hunted and was off to Australia to take up a big sporting job there.
Maybe she’ll be back one day……