GB&I Veterans Hewson, Mehaffey Relishing Role Reversal June 7, 2018 | Scarsdale, N.Y. By David Shefter, USGA

Expect the 2018 GB&I Curtis Cup Team to lean heavily on veteran Olivia Mehaffey, the highest-ranked player on the side. (USGA/Steven Gibbons)

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The expected phone call was barely a few minutes old when Olivia Mehaffey announced her intentions to Great Britain and Ireland Curtis Cup captain Elaine Farquharson-Black.

“I let the captain know I was ready to lead,” said Mehaffey.

The biennial Curtis Cup Match between the USA and Great Britain and Ireland often brings about an array of emotions. Players talk about being unable to breathe on the first tee. Not only are they competing for themselves, but also for their teammates and countries. For first-timers, the experience is unlike anything they’ve encountered in the game.

Having a veteran presence to keep things calm when there’s emotional chaos can be soothing. This is where Mehaffey and fellow GB&I veteran Alice Hewson can step up to lead the other six “rookies.”  

“I have some words of advice for [the team members] when we’re there. [The Curtis Cup Match] can be a scary thing. It’s a team event, everyone’s nervous and there’s a lot of media attention. So it will be nice to share my experience with the girls.”

Two years ago, Mehaffey was a Curtis Cup neophyte on a side that produced a three-point victory over the USA at Dun Laoghaire Golf Club outside of Dublin, Ireland. That GB&I team was galvanized by a pair of talented veterans in Bronte Law and Leona Maguire, both of whom were competing in their third Curtis Cup. Law, the fiery and emotional leader who was an All-American and national player of the year at UCLA, became just the second player in the Match’s history to produce a 5-0-0 record. The steady Maguire, an All-American and past national player of the year at Duke University, went 4-1-0.

With both players professionals – Maguire is making her debut this week at the LPGA Tour’s ShopRite Classic in Galloway Township, N.J. – the leadership of the 2018 GB&I Curtis Cup Team that will defend the Cup this week at Quaker Ridge Golf Club falls squarely on the shoulders of Mehaffey and Hewson. Mehaffey, a 20-year-old from Northern Ireland, is arguably the eight-woman side’s most decorated golfer.

At No. 16 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking™, she is GB&I’s highest-ranked player. In the spring of 2017, the then-Arizona State freshman helped the Sun Devils claim their eighth NCAA championship. In the 2016 Curtis Cup Match, Mehaffey went 2-1-1, halving her Sunday singles encounter with 2015 U.S. Women’s Amateur champion Hannah O’Sullivan.

Later that year, she tied for 15th individually in the Women’s World Amateur Team Championship in Mexico, and last week she competed in the U.S. Women’s Open at Shoal Creek, getting a spot in the field as a last-minute alternate.

“I know when I played two years ago, Bronte was really there for me and she really helped me,” said Mehaffey, who is from Belfast. “I feel like that’s kind of my role now.”

Hewson, No. 33 in the WAGR, can vividly recall how her body was reacting when she stepped on the first tee Friday afternoon with partner Meghan MacLaren for a four-ball match against Americans Monica Vaughn and Bailey Tardy. The atmosphere was electric, but Hewson’s stomach was churning.

Alice Hewson, of England, says she is much better prepared, emotionally and physically, for this Curtis Cup Match. (USGA/Steven Gibbons)

“You have to take it all in,” said Hewson on what she’s told her teammates about handling their emotions. “But once it is time to be hitting the shot, try and block it out. My first tee shot two years ago was really intimidating. I was really, really nervous. To get a good one away on the first hole just sets the tone for the rest of the round.”

Both Mehaffey and Hewson, a rising senior at Clemson University, bring vast experiences of competing against top college competition into the three-day Match. Hewson, 20, of England, owns three collegiate victories and claimed two gold medals for her country in last year’s European Team Championships. At Dun Laoghaire, Hewson went 0-2 in her two matches, losing a singles match on Sunday to the decorated Andrea Lee, who is one of two returners for the USA Team.

This time around, Hewson is older, wiser and much more prepared for the opportunity.

“Last time, myself and Olivia were kind of the babies on the team,” said Hewson. “We were the youngest. This year we’re two of the oldest and two of the most experienced players. It’s definitely different. We’re going to try and go out there and lead [by example].”

As for the message they are relaying to their teammates, Hewson had a simple response.

“Definitely go and enjoy it,” she said. “We play golf because it’s a game we love. Go out and have fun and expect the unexpected. People will make putts, make chips and hole shots … that you would never expect. But it’s Curtis Cup and anything can happen.”

David Shefter is a senior staff writer for the USGA. Email him at Joey Flyntz, associate writer for the USGA, contributed to this story