Former GB & Ireland Curtis Cup captain Ada O’Sullivan believes the staging of the latest renewal on Irish soil this weekend can give women’s golf a much-needed boost on these shores.
Dun Laoghaire Golf Club in Enniskerry, Co. Wicklow, will host the biennial showdown between the women’s amateurs of Great Britain & Ireland and the US, the first time it has been staged in Ireland in 20 years, when Ita Butler led the home nations to a rare victory at Killarney.
American captain Robin Burke’s hot favourites are a team of mostly teenagers spearheaded by women’s amateur world number one Hannah O’Sullivan, with the two oldest members aged just 21.
Yet with a GB&I side featuring three Irishwomen, world No.3 Leona Maguire, No.9 Olivia Mehaffey and captain’s pick Maria Dunne, there is a high level of talent spread across both teams that can, in Ada O’Sullivan’s view, give the women’s game a significant lift. “I think it will be wonderful for the game,” 2004 and ‘06 captain O’Sullivan told the Irish Examiner.
“There are a lot of junior clubs from around the country bringing people up to it to watch. There’s a Curtis Cup in Ireland for the first time since Killarney 20 years ago and there’s a big drive by the ILGU to try and get more and more junior (sections) up and running.
“So I think clubs are waking up to the fact they have to do more to bring our age profile down. The average age in most clubs is 50 to 55.
“We all know there’s a lost generation there of 25 to 45s and we have to get younger people back into our clubs so this week’s Curtis Cup can give that a real boost.
“The coverage has been quiet so far but we need to encourage people to come and watch because the talent and quality of the players that will be here, we might never see the likes again.
“Of the 16 players I think 13 or 14 are in the top 50 of the world rankings so you look at that and think ‘where would you get that spectacle on your doorstep?’
O’Sullivan, a former ILGU High Performance manager, played Dun Laoghaire two weeks ago and will do so again in a former players and captains’ match on Thursday. Her initial visit made a favourable impression.
“There’s lots of doglegs, lots of areas where carries can be taken on. The finishing holes should have great drama if the matches are anywhere close by that stage.
“There’s water, the carries if you want to take them on, very narrow landing areas from the tee which could all make a big difference.
“The greens are going to be the telling factor because the greenkeeper has the scope to make them very tough and there’s some very challenging pin positions on them which I’ve no doubt they’ll use. They’re in superb condition as well.”
Given that GB&I will be backed by a strong home crowd, O’Sullivan said she had been surprised by the perception of many she had spoken to that they were not expected to do well against the Americans. “People have asked me, ‘have we a chance?’ and it’s an interesting mindset that people would have.
“I’ve no doubt we do have a chance. You look at our squad and six of them would have played in the States, or are currently playing and they all have vast experience from Junior Ryder Cup, Vagliano and the like.
“I know Curtis Cup is a bigger stage but at the same time, they’re all gutsy players and they’re certainly not going to be in awe of the Americans.
“There’s no doubt they’re going to be a challenge but it’s match play and day one is going to be very important for us, just to show ‘you’re on our turf now and these are our terms’.
“That will be the key that Elaine will be trying to drive through her team and get the crowd going.
“The support will be wonderful with a huge amount of people travelling from all around the country and from Britain with Dun Laoghaire very easily accessible.”
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