You have to go back fully 40 years, to the 1976 match at Royal Liverpool, to find the last Scot to captain Great Britain & Ireland in the Curtis Cup. It was fitting, of course, that the person in question, the darling of Dunaverty, Belle Robertson, was, without doubt, the greatest female amateur produced by the home of golf.
In the 19 subsequent biennial meetings against their United States compatriots, the GB&I captain has either been English, Irish or Welsh, the latter being Tegwen Matthews, who saw her side overcome a whitewash in the opening foursomes to record a dramatic 10½-9½ triumph at Nairn four years ago. In doing so, a team that included Bothwell Castle’s Pamela Pretswell completed an unprecedented clean sweep of major trophies for Europe’s golfers against the United States as the Curtis Cup joined the Ryder Cup, Walker Cup and Solheim Cup in either GB&I or European hands.
Both the Curtis Cup and Solheim Cup have since been reclaimed by the Americans. Before Annika Sorenstam, the former world No 1, attempts to win back the latter, Elaine Farquharson-Black, an Aberdeen lawyer, has been tasked with trying to make the home team granite tough for the Curtis Cup, the latest instalment in which takes place at Dun Laoghaire Golf Club, near Dublin, from 10-12 June.
“This is a great honour for me,” admitted Farquharson-Black, who played on a winning team that also included Catriona Matthew (she was still Lambert then) at Prairie Dunes in 1992. “I’d hoped I’d get a crack at it, but I thought there were English people and Irish people who might have got the nod ahead of me. I’m not sure why I’m the first Scottish captain since Belle Robertson in 1976, except that a lot of the players – Gillian Stewart, Catherine Panton and Catriona – all turned pro and Wilma [Aitken] went to the States.”
Preparations for both the Curtis Cup and the Walker Cup are more professional than ever before, but Farquharson-Black has been unable to either dedicate the time or plough the resources into her captaincy as both Paul McGinley and Carin Koch did for the most recent stagings of the Ryder Cup and Solheim Cup. Nonetheless, she has been similarly groomed for the job, having captained GB&I in the build up to the big one in both the Vagliano Trophy and the Astor Trophy. Prior to those events, she also captained Scotland, first at under-16 then women’s level.
“When I started as a captain I was probably more prescriptive. Then I realised they are coming with their gameplan, and what I need to do is to try to make sure they can play to their ultimate,” she said. “I am trying to retain their normal routine, which is one of the hardest things to do in golf. I am looking at how long do you like to practice beforehand, what do you like to eat? So I can create that wee bubble with them. I was out at the Curtis Cup in 2014, and I obviously played under various captains. I like to read up on things. I have read [Paul] Azinger’s book [it included the thinking behind a successful pod system at Valhalla in 2008] about his approach to the Ryder Cup. I also followed what Paul McGinley did when he was the Ryder Cup captain at Gleneagles. But I have got my own ideas.”
Unlikely to contain a Scot – it is set to be dominated by English with a sprinkling of Irish mixed in – her eight-strong line-up will be announced today. Between now and the match, Farquharson-Black will be hammering home a message. “One of my aims is to try to get across to them that they are part of something bigger,” she said. “That they are among illustrious golfers who many people will remember more than the rank-and-file pros.”