The Curtis Cup at Dun Laoghaire last weekend had pretty well everything: stunning golf, record crowds (though not sure how accurate the count was), torrential rain (no provision for an extra day?), a player penalised for slow play (shock, horror, well done ref) and best of all a home win. It may be all about playing the game and making lifelong friends (there were a lot of those milling about) but there’s no doubt that winning is much more fun than losing.
GB and I (or B and I as the Irish Times preferred) defeated the much-touted USA side by 11 1/2 points to 8 1/2, to regain the trophy last won at Nairn in 2012. Bronte Law, of Bramhall, became the second player to win all five of her matches, emulating America’s Stacy Lewis who had a 100 per cent record at St Andrews in 2008, when the format was changed to include fourballs and extended to three days from two.
That change meant that all eight players play in the singles on the final day, so Rochelle Morris, of Woodsome Hall, did at least get a game. The GB and I captain Elaine Farquharson Black sat Morris out on the first two days, a tough call but by no means unprecedented. Claire Dowling, nee Hourihane, who was at Dun Laoghaire, was in the team at Royal St George’s in 1988 but did not play and the same thing happened to Kitty McCann at Muirfield in 1952. Both teams won.
The other tough call of the contest was the decision to take a bit of a stand against slow play – no matter how good the golf fourballs taking more than five hours is the opposite of compelling. It brings to mind the cry of Pat Ward Thomas, a revered golf correspondent of The Guardian, a breed not renowned for their patience, while watching a notoriously slow player contemplate a putt for an eternity: “Doesn’t he realise my life is ebbing away?”
The appropriately named Bailey Tardy was deemed guilty of two bad times on the Saturday afternoon and had to withdraw from the hole, which the Americans lost. What displeased the US captain Robin Burke more was that she felt that there were other culprits too. “I don’t think it was consistent,” she said. What was consistent that day was GB and I’s excellence. They won five of the six matches, losing only the opening foursomes and were a cumulative 20 under par for the three fourballs. Between them, Law, Olivia Mehaffey (Royal County Down Ladies’), Leona Maguire (Slieve Russell), Charlotte Thomas (West Surrey), Meghan McLaren (Wellingborough) and Maria Dunne (Skerries) pitched in and holed putts from everywhere to run their opponents ragged in a flurry of fist pumps, celebratory jumps, hugs, handshakes and beams from ear to ear. Teammates Morris and Alice Hewson (Berkhamsted) cheered them on.
“I’ve never seen better golf at a Curtis Cup,” said Belle Robertson.
The visitors, four of whom were only 17 years old, rallied in the singles but a deficit of four points with only eight left to play for proved too much.
Keep an eye out for the future exploits of Hannah O’Sullivan, Tardy, Sierra Brooks, Monica Vaughn, Andrea Lee, Mika Liu, Bethany Wu and Mariel Galdiano. They’ll doubtless be champing at the bit because they’ll have noticed the duo of teenage professionals at the top of the leaderboard at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship at Sahalee CC, near Seattle. Brooke Henderson, an 18-year old Canadian, beat Lydia Ko, the 19-year old world No 1 from New Zealand, at the first extra hole after they had tied on 278, six under par. Henderson, who was winning her first major title, finished with a 65, six under par and holed from three feet for a winning birdie in the play-off. Ariya Jutanugarn, the Thai in third place, is a veteran of 20.
To make me feel even older, I’ve been reading the R&A’s new Pace of Play Manual – and enjoying it. Time for a lie down!