Late Foursomes Run Carries USA to 4-2 Day-1 Lead at Quaker Ridge
June 7, 2018 | Scarsdale, N.Y.
By David Shefter, USGA
The USA Curtis Cup Team is taking a 4-2 lead over Great Britain and Ireland into Day 2 of the 40th Match after claiming the final two foursomes (alternate shot) matches on Friday.
Lilia Vu, No. 1 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking™ (WAGR), and her foursomes partner, reigning NCAA Division I champion and world No. 2 Jennifer Kupcho, delivered a clutch 2-up victory over Alice Hewson and India Clyburn in what proved to be the final match on the course. Several times over the final few holes on the inward nine, GB&I was poised to seize momentum, only to see Vu and Kupcho come up with answers.
After Clyburn, whose sister Holly played on two GB&I Curtis Cup Teams in 2010 and 2012 and is playing in this week’s LPGA Tour ShopRite Classic near Atlantic City, N.J., chipped in for birdie on the par-3 13th hole, Vu drained a 12-footer for birdie to halve the hole and keep the Americans’ 1-up lead.
“Well, [Jennifer] told me, ‘Oh, they're going to chip in, so you have to make the putt,” said Vu, who just completed her junior season at UCLA. “I had 2 inches of break, aimed 1 inch out and just rammed it, because I knew we needed to make it or else they're going to get momentum from this, and we all know what happens from there.”
Hewson and Clyburn struggled on the closing hole, making a double-bogey 6 before conceding the USA’s 5-foot par putt, and a 4-2 USA advantage. It gave Vu a perfect 2-0 mark on the day after she and partner Kristen Gillman rolled to a 4-and-3 victory in the morning’s four-ball session. Gillman, the 2014 U.S. Women’s Amateur champion, also went 2-0.
The USA needs 10.5 points to reclaim the Curtis Cup, while GB&I, which won by three points two years ago in the Republic of Ireland, needs 10 points to retain it.
Gillman and Stephenson got on a roll over the final eight holes of their foursomes match. After losing three consecutive holes from No. 6 – two with birdies – the University of Alabama teammates claimed five of the next eight holes to put the match out of reach.
Earlier in the day, Gillman and Vu combined for eight birdies – and no bogeys – in their four-ball victory.
Olivia Mehaffey, one of GB&I’s two returning competitors from the 2016 Match and its highest-ranked player (No. 16), along with partner Sophie Lamb, of England, the low amateur from last year’s Women’s British Open, provided 1.5 points, including a 3-and-2 foursomes victory over Mariel Galdiano and Andrea Lee, the only two American returners from 2016.
“We lost the first, and it was just really relaxing to get two back, and on [No.] 3 I holed a really good putt, and just from then on we felt really comfortable once we got that 1-up lead,” said Mehaffey, who helped Arizona State University win the 2017 NCAA title.
Earlier in the day, Mehaffey and Lamb rallied from a 3-down deficit to earn a half in the four-ball match against Kupcho and two-time U.S. Women’s Open qualifier Lucy Li, at 15 the youngest competitor in the Match.
The format will be the same as Friday with three four-ball matches in the morning, followed by three foursomes matches in the afternoon. On Sunday, all eight competitors will compete in singles matches. Great Britain and Ireland needs 10 points to retain the Cup, while the USA needs 10.5 to reclaim it. The first four-ball match on Saturday will start at 9:25 a.m. EDT.
- All eight USA Team members played on Friday, while GB&I captain Elaine Farquharson-Black played seven of her eight players. Annabell Fuller, 16, of England, the youngest member of the side, sat out both sessions.
- Fuller will be flying home immediately after the Closing Ceremony on Sunday night in order to take her high school final exams. She has finals scheduled for Monday afternoon, Wednesday and Friday. She said all of the finals are science-related.
- Mariel Galdiano, of the USA, took a final exam on Thursday before the Flag-Raising ceremony in Theater 10. She also has a paper due in the class on Monday, and two more finals scheduled next week in Asian-American Studies 187c and Japanese 3.
- Having a lead after Day 1 is generally a good omen. Since 2000, the side that has led after the first day has won six times. Two years ago, the teams were tied, 3-3, after Day 1 before GB&I pulled away over the final two days.
GB&I captain Elaine Farquharson-Black on her side’s overall performance on Day 1:
“I'm disappointed obviously with the result, but I thought in the morning we hit the ball closer to the pin, but they holed a lot of 15-footers. It was a good fight back obviously this morning from Olivia [Mehaffey] and Sophie [Lamb], and they birdied, what, three of the last four holes. And then obviously you saw the reverse in the last match when we were up and then the Americans birdied three of the last four holes. In the afternoon, I kind of think it just got a little bit away from us, around about 13, 14. We lost 14 in two of the matches. We won one. But the bottom match, the Americans were  under, which is really good scoring for foursomes. It's quite impressive.”
Farquharson-Black on whether or not she’ll change her strategy on Day 2:
“I look at what's going to be my best pairings to bring three points. I kind of look at each series individually. The target is to win three. It will be the same tomorrow.”
Olivia Mehaffey on being paired again with Sophie Lamb for Saturday’s four-ball session:
“We're loving it. It's been a great [Match] so far.”
Lauren Stephenson on being paired with her college teammate, Kristen Gillman:
“We know each other’s games really well and have similar games. We hit a lot of fairways, a lot of greens and give ourselves a lot of chances. That makes us a very successful team in alternate shot. We only had one bogey and it was a three-putt [on No. 7].”
Jennifer Kupcho on being paired with world No. 1 Lilia Vu:
“I think we just have really good personalities. We kind of have the same game. We hit the fairway, hit the green, and do what we can do from there.”
David Shefter is a senior staff writer for the USGA. Email him at email@example.com.