Ireland are confident they can build on their breakthrough bronze medal performance in the World Amateur Team Championship two years ago and make the podium again in the Espirito Santo Trophy at Carton House this week.
While they face stiff competition from the best female amateurs on the planet, Olivia Mehaffey, Paula Grant, and Annabel Wilson are not shy away from medal talk as Ireland hosts the event for the first time at the Montgomerie and O’Meara Courses in Maynooth. Team captain Danielle McVeigh played in the event in Australia in 2008 and Argentina in 2010 and she believes they have the talent to take on the likes of defending champions South Korea or the United States, who boast the top three players in the World Amateur Golf Ranking.
They’ve been at this tournament before so I’m really telling them nothing they don’t know already,” McVeigh said. “It’s more about removing all of the obstacles and hopefully making their life as easy as possible so they can literally just go and play golf.
Grant, 24, played in Japan four years ago while 17-year old Wilson and 20-year old Mehaffey won bronze alonside Leona Maguire, now a professional, in Mexico two years ago.
And all three believe they have improved vastly since they last played in the event.
“When I played the last worlds, I had just started university so there was a lot of parts of my game that I wasn’t really happy with,” Mehaffey said. “I’d say I’m probably hitting it 20 yards further. I’m striking it better. I feel like since the world’s two years ago I’m a completely different player. I think I’ve really moved my game along.”
Asked if Ireland were ready to win, McVeigh said: “That’s why we’re here.”
“I think our preparation has been brilliant,” Wilson said. “During the winter we came down and played both courses three or four times whereas other teams haven’t.
They’re just coming here this week haven’t seen the course so that’s a big advantage. Also, we’ve got our coaches that have been here the days we’ve been here giving us tips and helping us prepare the best that we can for this week.
South Korea will be going for their fourth win in five editions since 2010 with Seo Yun Kwon, Yae Eun Hong and Ayean Cho flying the flag for the holders. The USA is on a mission in Maynooth with the top three players in the World Amateur Golf Ranking all determined to bring home the trophy for the first time in 20 years.
But team captain Stasia Collins insists they are taking nothing for granted despite the presence of world No 1 Jennifer Kupcho, No 2 Lila Vu and No 3 Kristen Gillman, the current US Amateur champion.
Drawn with hosts Ireland and holders South Korea for the first two rounds— they go off in the first three threeballs on the Montgomerie Course from 7:45 am today — Collins insists they’ve got their work cut out. “In these international competitions, it’s hard because there are teams that we’re not familiar with,” the American captain said. “A lot of the Asian teams don’t play in the events that go into the WAGR ranking. Although we are thrilled with the way that we’re playing, you just never know so we’ve got to go out there every day and do our best.
We don’t have a federation or government-sponsored golf, so these girls and their families have all done it on their own where they haven’t had help from the United States government to do it which I think is a big difference from some of the other countries out there.
All three were members of the USA team that trounced Great Britain and Ireland by a record-breaking 17-3 margin at Quaker Ridge in June.
But while respect the home team, which includes GB&I Curtis Cup players Mehaffey and Grant, their mission is clear. “Bring it home,” said world No 1 Kupcho (21). “I think if we go out there and hit every shot with confidence and just play our game I think we’ll have a good shot at bringing the trophy home.”