The USA might dominate the Curtis Cup in the history books but given the venue and the battling qualities of both sides it may all come down to a putting contest.
At least that’s the view of US captain Robin Burke, who is married to 93-year-old US Ryder Cup legend and two-time major winner, Jack Burke Jnr.
While she concedes the home crowd of around 5,000 will be a big challenge for her young team — their average age is 18 — Burke believes there is so little between the sides that putting will be the key on the pristine parkland greens of Dun Laoghaire Golf Club.
“As one wise man once said, the trophy is given away on the putting green, not on the fairway,” she said. “So it all comes down to who is making the putts because these girls all hit it very well. It just happened to be Jack Burke who said that.”
If she’s even half as forceful a character as her husband, her opposite number, Elaine Farquharson-Black has her work cut out getting the best out of an eight-strong GB&I side made up of three Irish and five English players.
A keen student of the management techniques of Paul Azinger and Paul McGinley, she knows that getting the best out of the home crowd will be key and with world No 2 Leona Maguire from Slieve Russell, No. 8 Olivia Mehaffey and Skerries’ Maria Dunne all playing well, she’s decided to play all three in the opening foursomes session.
Maguire suffered from vertigo in the recent NCAA Championships and didn’t take part in last Friday’s friendly match with Castle’s male Senior Cup team but the captain is unconcerned
. “She’s absolutely fine and she’s playing very well too.” Maguire will partner England’s Charlotte Thomas in the second of this morning’s three foursomes against Andrea Lee and Mika Liu on a 6,603-yard, par-72 course that both captains agree will be a test of long, straight hitting and nerveless putting.
The Co Cavan talent is one of three players in the eight-strong GB&I side with Curtis Cup experience alongside Thomas and UCLA star Bronte Law. US captain Burke has six of the world’s Top 20 with the “luck of the Irish” element covered by world No 1 Hannah O’Sullivan, whose grandmother, Ina O’Sullivan, is from Lattin, Co Tipperary, while her late grandfather John L O’Sullivan hailed from Kilmallock, Co Limerick.
“I am really excited to be in Ireland,” said O’Sullivan, who is from Cupertino,California. “I have 50 relatives from all around Ireland coming out to watch.”
Ironically, O’Sullivan took over from Leona Maguire as world No 1 earlier this season and having seen the course, she feels more at home in Ireland than she expected.
“Every hole looks familiar to me. It’s going to be great for matchplay..”
O’Sullivan will open hostilities alongside world No 6 Mariel Galdiano against Mehaffey and Law as Meghan MacLaren and Skerries star Dunne take on Bailey Tardy and Monica Vaughn. At 33, Dunne is the oldest debutant since Ennis’ Tricia Mangan and having overcome back issues that almost forced her to give up the game in 2008, she’s up for the challenge.
“I was ready to finish in 2008 and 2009 but I didn’t want it to end like that,” said Dunne. Now that I’m here, I want to embrace it.”
Mehaffey has won six events in the last 14 months but none have given her more pleasure than this year’s wins following two months out with glandular fever in February and March.
She came back to win the Irish Women’s Open Strokeplay by eight shots and finish second in her defence of the Scottish Women’s before retaining the Welsh Women’s Open and then taking the Irish Women’s Close at Lahinch.
GB&I require 10½ points to regain the trophy with 20 points up for grabs over the next three days — three foursomes and fourball matches both today and tomorrow followed by eight singles on Sunday.
Curtis Cup matches, Dun Laoghaire Golf Club Today: Day 1 Morning: Three foursomes (USA names first):
(8.0) Hannah O’Sullivan & Mariel Galdiano v Bronte Law & Olivia Mehaffey (8.12) Andrea Lee & Mika Liu v Charlotte Thomas & Leona Maguire (8.24) Bailey Tardy & Monica Vaughn v Meghan MacLaren & Maria Dunne.
Three fourballs at 1pm; 1.15pm and 1.30pm.
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