Manchester-by-the-Sea, Mass. – One past Curtis Cup player who will avidly watch this 2010 Match from afar is 98-year-old Phyllis Wade Wylie, who lives next door to the Troon (Scotland) Ladies Clubhouse. While the Curtis Cup is being contested far from the home she occupies in contented retirement, Wylie will pay close attention to the competition in which she played so ferociously 72 years ago.
It was 1938, and Phil Wade and her partner, Pat Walker, faced off against southerner Kathryn Hemphill and Marion Miley.
Although it was just the fourth Curtis Cup Match, that contest was played seven-plus decades ago at Essex County Club, the venue for this week’s Curtis Cup Match. Travelling in those days meant crossing the Atlantic Ocean by ship.
Wade, who was a noted foursomes (alternate shot) player, and Walker fought hard for their side. Both of the earlier foursomes matches went to the 36th green (matches were 36 holes back then), with Helen Holm and Claire Tiernan managing a 2-up win over Estelle Lawson Page and Maureen Orcutt of the USA. Then Jessie Anderson and Elsie Corlett picked up another point for GB&I when they outlasted the stellar USA team of Glenna Collett Vare and Patty Berg, 1 up, a rather remarkable win for the visiting team.
GB&I now owned a 2-0 lead. Back and forth went the Walker/Wade – Hemphill/Miley contest. In the end, it was a halve, with each team awarded ½ point.
But, as Colin Farquharson wrote in 2001, The Americans came out like match-play tigers, winning five of the six singles the following day and claimed the Cup, 5½ to 3½.
The United States won the match but my abiding memory is how happy I was to be playing in a Curtis Cup Match and what great fun we had, Wade said many years later. She believed that was the biggest difference between players of then and now. We all enjoyed ourselves, win or lose, and we weren’t afraid to show it, she said.
Following that Curtis Cup Match, Wade qualified for the 1938 U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship at Westmoreland C.C. in Wilmette, Ill., but lost in the first round to Helen Waterhouse of Warwick, R.I., 1 up.
In 1939, Phyllis Wade married Surgeon-Capt. J.I. Wylie, a Scot who was a naval officer. They had one son, Ian.
Wade barely missed making the 1948 team, the first competition since 1938 because of World War II. She claims that when she developed a very bad hook that season, it pushed her back into the first reserve spot. She was also a reserve in 1936 before finally taking her place as a full-fledged team member in 1938.
Now I have been a widow for many years, living happily in Troon, said Wylie, whose home overlooks the 17th green at Royal Troon, a longtime venue among the British Open rota. Today, Phyllis Wade Wylie reigns with Jessie Valentine as the lone surviving members of the 1938 Curtis Cup Match, survivors of a memorable era of the game.
Rhonda Glenn is a manager of communications for the USGA. E-mail her with questions or comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.