At the age of 20, Cydney Clanton of Concord, N.C., will be the elder stateswoman of the 2010 USA Curtis Cup Team. The Auburn University junior, who turns 21 in July, enjoyed a strong 2009 summer campaign, advancing to the quarterfinals of the U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links and the third round of the U.S. Women’s Amateur before falling to the eventual champion, Jennifer Song. Clanton, who qualified for the 2008 U.S. Women’s Open, becomes the fourth Auburn golfer to be named to the USA Curtis Cup Team, following Margaret Platt (1990), Virginia Derby Grimes (1998, 2000 and 2006) and Courtney (Swaim) Trimble (2002). The long-hitting Clanton recently discussed the Curtis Cup and other topics with USGA communications staff writer David Shefter.
What went through your mind when the call came?
Clanton: Not necessarily shocked. At that point in time, I wasn’t necessarily expecting it. All I kept hearing was, You’ll hear in April, you’ll hear in April. I really didn’t know what that meant. When in April? I had just gotten back from the Kraft [Nabisco Championship]. So when they called, I was just like, Oh man! It was definitely a relief to get the news so I can start preparing mentally for it. It’s an honor. I was thrilled.
Did you think much about the Curtis Cup selection during the spring season, especially since traditionally the squad has been picked in late January or early February?
Clanton: In January it was more on the brain because I didn’t know how many tournaments I should play in over winter [break]. I needed to find out if I needed to play in the SALLY (South Atlantic Ladies Amateur), the Harder [Hall Invitational]. I was thinking about all of those. I played decent, I didn’t play great, but after that, I heard, Oh, we’re not picking [the team] until April. After that I couldn’t have making Curtis Cup be my main focus. I tried to put it, more or less, in the back of my brain.
You received an amateur invite to the Kraft Nabisco Championship, the first women’s professional major of the year. Were you thinking about Curtis Cup as you played in California?
Clanton: No, not really. For me it was just the experience of the Kraft. It was me just trying to go out and play.
You also qualified for a U.S. Women’s Open in 2008. How much will competing in two majors help in your Curtis Cup preparation?
Clanton: The Curtis Cup is a lot different because you are on a team and you all have to work as a team. It’s not necessarily just my individual play. It’s kind of how you play with others so it’s going to be a little bit different golf. In match play, I tend to play a little different in general. In terms of crowds and stuff, everybody is kind of used to a crowd. It’s just going out and feeling comfortable with who you are playing with and how you are playing. Preparing is probably the same because you want to be mentally stable and you physically want to be confident in your game.
How much do you know about Curtis Cup history?
Clanton: Honestly, I don’t know much about the history of the Curtis Cup. My assistant coach last year (Courtney Trimble) was a member of the Curtis Cup and she said how great it was and how big of an honor it was.
Was there anything specific that Courtney said about playing in the Curtis Cup?
Clanton: She just said how great of an experience it was and the people who are there and all the people that you meet. How much of an honor it is to play, especially since you are playing for your country.
Have you ever played in a team event like the Curtis Cup?
Clanton: I made the U.S.-Japan team my freshman year. And then I played for the World Cup for the U.S. when I was like 13. It was like the U.S. versus Canada over in Japan.
Do you consider yourself a good alternate-shot player?
Clanton: We don’t see it [much] but we do play around with it on our golf team. I like to make up games and that’s normally one of them. I have played alternate shot, but it’s more or less for fun. But in the two [international events] I played, we did play alternate shot. Am I a good alternate-shot player? I guess if you go back and look at records of me playing, I’ve won the majority of them. I enjoy playing it. I think it’s fun.
What kind of player would match up well with your game in foursomes?
Clanton: Probably someone really good with wedges and a good putter. Because I am a pretty good ball-striker. Since I do hit it a long way, someone who is definitely really good with their wedges [would match well with me].
How much do you know the other seven players on the team?
Clanton: I know all of the girls. I have played with Kim Kim all during junior golf. Tiffany Lua and Stephanie Kono I played with all during junior golf. Jennifer Song I’ve gotten to know through collegiate [golf]. I played with a lot of golf with Jennifer Song. I haven’t played much with Jennifer Johnson, but we’ve known each other through junior golf and now college golf. I never played with Alexis Thompson, but at tournaments we’ve talked. And I played with her at the Kraft during the practice rounds. The same with [Jessica] Korda … I have played with her a little bit.
Your game in the last 12 to 18 months has really blossomed on a national level. What has been the difference?
Clanton: I’ve definitely buckled down on my short game and mentally found my place and found my comfort zone. So it’s been a lot easier and I have had a lot more consecutive good rounds. I have gotten sound with my golf and matured a little more over the last year. So that’s probably been a big change. And just letting things go and moving and staying in the present.
Has playing college golf allowed your game to mature and blossom?
Clanton: I do think that college golf does that, especially with course management. But it also helps you mentally strengthen, just because you have so much going on. You have to worry about school, you have to worry about the team and you have to worry about your personal life and keeping everything separate. So there’s a lot of maturing that goes on in college. But for me, it was finding myself and finding what I wanted to do and buckling down and telling myself that I wasn’t going to let anything bother me. I was going to let the bad shot go. That’s what has helped me mature over the last year or two.
Obviously, all this is happening around the college postseason and final exams.
Clanton: I’ll be done at the beginning of May. So no finals will be interfering with me.
How many classes do you have this semester?
Clanton: I have 15 hours, so I have five classes. I have managerial accounting, financial markets and institutions, principles of real estate, investments and I have stats. I am a finance major.
Is your goal to play four years of college before turning professional?
Clanton: I’ll stay my last year and go from there. I have one more year.
One of your teammates, Candace Schepperle, is the first alternate for the USA Curtis Cup Team. She’s had a fine year, so how hard was it on her when the team was announced?
Clanton: It’s been pretty tough on all of us. It was really tough, especially in the circumstances.
You played in the U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links outside of Boston last year, so did you get a chance to see any of the city?
Clanton: No. Actually my mom has really bad anxiety, so to drive into Boston was pretty miserable for her. We weren’t really able to [see much]. When we flew into the airport, I got to see the baseball stadium (Fenway Park) and I got to see a little bit.
Is there any part of Boston you want to see on this visit?
Clanton: I enjoy being at the golf course. So being at a golf course and being able to play on a great golf course with some really good competition, that’s more or less what I am looking forward to doing.
Essex County Club is a traditional Donald Ross layout. Do you like classic, old-style courses?
Clanton: Oh yeah. I love a traditional-looking golf course. I play on a lot of Robert Trent Jones [courses] down in Alabama, but we have a lot of Donald Ross [courses] in North Carolina.
I saw on the Auburn Web site that you have three brothers. How much impact did they have getting you involved with sports?
Clanton: They didn’t allow me to do any of the prissy stuff. When I was younger I played all sports. I played one year of seventh-grade basketball for my school. Growing up I played soccer and softball and baseball. I played tennis for a year competitively. But I was really big into softball and basketball when I was younger.
Where did golf fit in?
Clanton: My older brother played golf when he was younger. He doesn’t play anymore [competitively]. But my entire family plays. We have a family tournament that pits my mom’s side against my dad’s side. My grandfather’s birthday and my dad’s birthday are in November so we get together for my granddad’s birthday.
Which side gets you?
Clanton: I switch every other year.
So you’re the ringer?
Clanton: Pretty much. I normally switch from family to family, depending on the year.
What would you say is the strength of your game?
Clanton: Probably ball striking. I tend to hit a lot of greens and make a lot of birdies.
What is your schedule between now and the Curtis Cup?
Clanton: We leave this week for SECs. Then we’ll have a two-week break before regionals. Then we’ll have a week break and have nationals. Right after nationals, I’ll go up for the practice round for the Curtis Cup. My Women’s Open qualifier is one of the last ones in June. It’s right before the Curtis Cup.
And I would assume it’s a full summer schedule of events?
Clanton: I’ll be playing in the Public Links [in Notre Dame, Ind.] again this year, the Am and hopefully the [Women’s] Open. And I normally play in the North and South, which is at Pinehurst.