Manchester-by-the-Sea, Mass. – One of the toughest assignments for any Curtis Cup captain is telling players they are sitting out a session. While everyone competes in Sunday singles, the foursomes (alternate shot) and four-balls feature only three matches, so just six of eight team members get to play.
Each captain comes into a particular Match with a different philosophy on handling this dilemma. Some make sure each player sits at least one session. Other captains will ride hot players. Of course, the score and Match status usually dictates the final decision.
At the last Curtis Cup Match in 2008 contested on the Old Course at St. Andrews, USA Captain Carol Semple Thompson played Stacy Lewis in all five sessions. Lewis became the first player in Match history to record a 5-0 mark.
So it’s a difficult balance between sensitivity and sensibility.
Ideally it would be wonderful if everybody sat out one match and I hope I have the luxury to do that, said Noreen Mohler, the USA captain, at Thursday’s pre-Match press conference at Essex County Club. But we’re here to win, and if I have to ride a player, then that’s what we’ll do. Again, I don’t think that’s going to happen with this team because it’s a strong, deep team.
Great Britain and Ireland Captain Mary McKenna of Ireland, who played in a record nine Curtis Cups for GB&I, said she planned to use every player on her roster on Friday. Three foursomes and three four-ball matches will be played in the morning and afternoon sessions, respectively.
Quite honestly, I would love to be able to play four foursomes, said McKenna. I hope everybody would play the first day. That keeps the spirit going. The biggest difficulty is not who I’m going to play. It’s who can’t play.
Mohler received a nice e-mail Wednesday night from victorious 2009 U.S. Solheim Cup captain and two-time U.S. Women’s Amateur champion Beth Daniel. Daniel, who beat Mohler in the 1975 Women’s Amateur semifinals en route to her first championship, offered three pieces of valuable information as it relates to team play.
She just said be prepared, plan ahead and then go with the flow, said Mohler. So that means just be ready for anything.
Extending The Streak
The Americans come into this Match riding a six-Match winning streak that dates to the 1998 competition at Minikahda Club in Minneapolis. So do the players feel any extra pressure to keep the streak alive?
That kind of pressure is definitely in the back of our heads, said reigning U.S. Women’s Amateur and Women’s Amateur Public Links champion Jennifer Song, but going into the [competition] all we’re thinking about is kicking some butts out there. I told Noreen [on Wednesday] we got your back, so don’t worry about it.
Added 15-year-old Alexis Thompson: I don’t think we’re going to think about that when we’re on the first tee. We don’t want to think about that because then you’re just going to get really nervous. You just have to play your game and hope for the best.
While GB&I enters as the underdog, McKenna doesn’t necessarily see it that way. She has supreme confidence in her eight players and all have strong credentials.
In 1986, McKenna was on the GB&I team that won for the first time on American soil at Prairie Dunes in Hutchinson, Kan.
Just the belief that you can do it and that the Americans are beatable, said McKenna. I think that’s the most important thing. If they each produce the game they are capable of producing, and I don’t think they have to play like God … I think we have a good chance.
McKenna’s first Curtis Cup came at the 1970 Match held at nearby Brae Burn Country Club. Members of both teams had the opportunity to meet Harriot Curtis, who with younger sister, Margaret, donated the trophy for the Curtis Cup Match. The two sisters grew up at Essex County Club, where Margaret won the last of her three U.S. Women’s Amateur titles. Harriot won her only Women’s Amateur in 1906 at Brae Burn.
She was very elderly, said McKenna of meeting Harriot, who was 89 at the time. She died four years later. It was just very special to be at their house. She was … very special to the game. I was trying to actually find a photograph, and I found a great photo of our team with her.
Both McKenna and Mohler, a Woburn, Mass., native, have spent time with their players this week explaining the importance of the Curtis sisters to the game and this biennial competition.
This week has also been a chance for the 2010 teams to meet Curtis Cup alums.
Past USA players who are here this week include Jane Bastanchury Booth, Kellee Booth, Courtney (Swaim) Trimble, Dottie Pepper, Carol Semple Thompson, Robin Weiss Donnelley and Martha Lang. Past GB&I players who have traveled here this week include Bridgett Jackson and Maureen Garrett.
Definitely, it’s a long tradition, said Song. They were mentioning like what year they were on the team, and some mentioned 1950, and I’m like, ‘Wow, even if you double my age, I still wouldn’t be born.’ They were kind of laughing at that.
Odds and Ends
England’s Hannah Barwood, 19, doesn’t just golf. She also works as a bartender/waitress at a local golf club…Danielle McVeigh of Ireland spent two years at Texas A&M, while Scotland’s Sally Watson just finished her freshman season at Stanford…The Maguire twins, Leona and Lisa, both said they miss the chocolate from back home. It tastes better, said Leona…Both teams have taken a Duck Tour on the Charles River this week…GB&I arrived in the U.S. on June 1 and spent the first week as guests of Roberta Bolduc, a past chairman of the USGA Women’s Committee, at Longmeadow (Mass.) Country Club before traveling over to Essex…McKenna and Mohler competed against each other in the 1978 Match at The Apawamis Club in Rye, N.Y.
David Shefter is a USGA communications staff writer. E-mail him with questions or comments at email@example.com.