Ireland faded to tied 11th as the United States of America ended their 20-year wait for victory in the Women’s World Amateur Team Championships by hoisting the Espirito Santo Trophy aloft at Carton House.
Jennifer Kupucho, Lilia Vu and Kristen Gillman — the top three in the World Amateur Golf Rankings — doubled their 54-hole lead and won by ten strokes from Japan on 29-under par 551 with the Republic of Korea a shot further back in third after Saturday’s final round on the O’Meara Course.
Ireland went into the final day nine strokes adrift of third-placed Japan, but they failed to produce the fireworks they needed to match their breakthrough performance in Mexico two years ago when Leona Maguire, Annabel Wilson and Olivia Mehaffey were third to give Ireland its first medal in the event.
Maguire has since turned professional and while 17-year-old Lurgan star Wilson showed why she’s been headhunted by UCLA for the 2019-20 collegiate campaign, Ireland did not have all three players firing on all cylinders.
Wilson carded a one-under 72 on the O’Meara Course on the final day but Mehaffey’s 74 was the next best with Lisburn’s Paula Grant 75 the discarded score for the third day running.
Ireland finished on four-under-par with their lukewarm performance on the O’Meara Course — one-over for second and fourth rounds compared to five-under on the tougher Montgomerie Course on days one and three — the key.
“If we had played all four rounds on the Montgomerie Course we might have done better,” Mehaffey said after finishing tied 12th in the individual standings on three-under par, 14 shots behind top individual Ayean Cho from bronze-medallists Korea.
We just struggled a bit on the O’Meara Course but that’s the way it goes.
Mehaffey may be a professional when the next Espirito Santo Trophy is staged but 17-year-old Annabel Wilson is likely to be a UCLA play by then and after closing with a one-under 72 to finish tied 23rd, and she believes she can only get better.
“Overall I had a really great week and I am happy with how I played,” Wilson said. “We are not that far behind the leading nations and when we got a bronze medal two years ago, it was like, ‘hold on here, we can compete with the big dogs, no problem.’
Again this week, we were up there close but again, the second day, we didn’t get things going and that put us behind for the whole week.
Ireland’s non-playing captain Danielle McVeigh felt that her charges had simply tried too hard, especially when playing the easier O’Mear course where wedge play and low scoring on the par-fives were key elements.
“When you are at a home venue and friends and family come out to support, it could be that it comes down to just trying too hard,” she said.
“We had the resilience and the determination on the tough golf course so if we could have freed up a wee bit on the O’Meara, you never know what could have happened.”
The United States gave the chasing pack no encouragement as US Amateur champion Gillman made an eagle and five birdies in a six-under 67.shot a six-under 67 and world number one Kupcho a four-under 69 to leave him ten strokes ahead of Japan, who claimed their first ever medal, on 29-under.
We have the strong bond already from the beginning, especially yesterday when we were all struggling we all fought for each other,” said Kupcho, who won this year’s NCAA Women’s individual title.
“We all wanted to win for each other, and I think that was a big thing coming out of yesterday. And, I think that’s how we got our big lead coming into today.”
Korea were third, a shot behind Japan with Cho finishing two strokes ahead of Kupcho and Japan’s Yuka Yasuda on 17-under par to head the unofficial individual standings.
Japan clinched its first appearance on the medal podium in 28 appearances thanks to three-under 70s from 18-year-olds Yoshida and Nishimura.