Curtis Cup Golf: Singles girls battle back to glory
AFTER a stuttering start by the home team on Friday, it had been dubbed the “Catastrophe Cup” by one member of the Fourth Estate here on the banks of the Moray Firth. “Triumphant Trophy” became more appropriate by the time the final putt had dropped in the 37th Curtis Cup.
In winning it 10½-9½, Great Britain & Ireland’s women amateurs not only ended a run of seven painful defeats at the hands of their American counterparts. They also produced a performance that ranks alongside the very best in team events over the years in the Royal & Ancient game.
Despite the pre-tournament confidence in the home camp, few gave them much of a chance. And it looked a forlorn cause as early as the opening session as the Americans swept to a 3-0 whitewash. But this was a GB&I a side that contained talent and guts in equal measures.
Helped by an important contribution from Pamela Pretswell – the sole Scot in the side secured a vital point in Saturday afternoon’s fourballs with an exquisite approach at the 17th – Tegwen Matthews’ team started the final-day singles just a point behind.
They needed five more from the eight matches to come out on top. History, though, was against them. They’d only won the singles session five times in the event’s 80-year history. Moreover, the Americans had lost just once on the 24 occasions they’d held the lead heading into the final session.
On a dry but chilly day in the Highlands, the presence of the Olympic torch on the first tee – it had been brought along by Sandra Ross, a local athletics coach who ran the final leg of the relay as it swept into Inverness on Saturday night – seemed to have lit the American fire more than their opponents.
After the first hour’s play, the visitors led in four matches and were all square in the other one. Yet, just over an hour later, the tide had started to turn. Those carrying Union Jacks around the course began to hope that an after-party was in the offing following last week’s Diamond Jubilee Celebrations.
Perhaps it was an omen that GB&I had recorded their first win in the event at Muirfield in 1952, the year The Queen came to the throne. Exactly 60 years on, Scotland was to prove another happy hunting ground for the home team as the magical five points were delivered by English trio Kelly Tidy, Holly Clyburn and Charley Hull, Amy Boulden from Wales and Ireland’s Stephanie Meadow.
Sent out first by Matthews, Royal Birkdale player Tidy was three down after six against Austin Ernst, who didn’t put a foot wrong in covering that stretch in two-under. “I had to stay patient because I knew it couldn’t last and she would crack,” said Tidy afterwards.
After her first birdie of the day – she holed from 18 feet at the seventh – the English player got the bit between her teeth. She was back to all square by the turn and got her nose in front for the first time at the 12th. Ernst levelled at the 14th but then fluffed a pitch to lose the 16th. Tidy clinched a 2 and 1 win in style by holing from 15 feet for a birdie at the 17th.
“It was important that we got some momentum going and I was hoping to generate roars that would be heard by the players behind me,” added Tidy after levelling the scores at 6½-6½. The Americans edged in front again when Pretswell, playing in match No 4, fell 4 and 3 to Lisa McCloskey. Tidy, though, did inspire Clyburn and Boulden.
Never behind in her match, Clyburn capitalised on three bogeys in a row from her opponent, Erica Popson, to win that one 3 and 2. Then Boulden, who showed her liking for links golf when winning the Scottish Open Stroke-Play Championship at Troon in April, put GB&I ahead for the first time in the match.
She had been two down after eight before bagging back-to-back birdies at the eighth and ninth. Two up with three to play, she found sand with her drive at the 17th but holed from 12 feet for par after seeing Emily Tubert hit the pin with her third.
“It was important that we got some points on the board early to take pressure off the players down the order,” said Boulden.
At the bottom of the order, Irish teenager Leona Maguire fell behind early on against Brooke Pancake and was well flattened in the end, the impressive American cruising to a 6 and 5 success. Bronte Law also lost, albeit on the last to Tiffany Lua. But, with Hull finally living up to her world No 4 status as she produced a polished performance to brush aside Lindy Duncan, it was all down to the match involving Meadow and Amy Anderson.
Two up early on, Meadow, who, ironically, has lived in America for the last five years, was hauled back to all square after eight. She, too, birdied the ninth and tenth, though, and eventually went on to win comfortably in the end. Two up with four to play, a timely birdie-3 at the 14th gave her breathing space and it finished 4 and 2.
As had been the case in the 1999 Walker Cup, Nairn had proved a lucky venue for GB&I. This win, though, had little to do with luck. Despite the odds being stacked against them, the home team came through thanks to a cocktail of talent and tenacity.
In the end, it was certainly no catastrophe – anything but.
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Weather for Edinburgh
Saturday 18 May 2013
Temperature: 8 C to 12 C
Wind Speed: 25 mph
Wind direction: East
Temperature: 9 C to 17 C
Wind Speed: 7 mph
Wind direction: North east