2006: Talent gap evident during Leon’s romp

Bandon, Ore.

Great Britain and Ireland captain Ada O’Sullivan put it succinctly. Her squad was “simply outclassed” on Day 1 of the 34th Curtis Cup Match.

Nowhere was the talent gap between GB&I and America more evident than the singles match between Taylor Leon and Claire Coughlan, a 5-and-4 drubbing worse than even the score indicated.

Leon, 19, is a statuesque Texan who stands a head taller than Coughlan, a 26-year-old scrapper from Cork, Ireland. Leon is a high-ball hitter whose drives were consistently 50-60 yards longer than the low balls hit by Coughlan, who arrived here as a GB&I team leader thanks to her 3-0 record in the 2004 Curtis Cup at Formby, England.

Coughlan was a wizard with her putter from off the green, a necessity considering she rarely hit any green other than a par 3 in regulation. At least once, she cold-topped a shot attempted with a fairway metal.

Coughlan scored a textbook birdie on the first hole, which proved to be her only red number of the day. She made three consecutive bogeys and was 3 down to Leon after five holes. Birdies at the 11th and 12th put the American 4 up. The official scorecard shows Xs for both players at the par-3 14th, where Coughlan became hopelessly unglued.

She shanked her tee ball, which ended up in a sandy depression in rough between the putting surface and a bunker. Coughlan tried to drill a shot and kill it on the upslope to the green, but she didn’t hit it hard enough and the ball rolled back past her and into the bunker. Her third shot – attempted after a marshal added to the chaos by stepping backward and tumbling into another bunker – came up short of the green. She made a futile stab at pitching in for bogey before conceding the hole to Leon, who had been waiting patiently after marking her ball on the putting surface.

As if that episode wasn’t painful enough, Coughlan also had been the goat in a demoralizing final-hole loss in the third foursomes match. The pesky pairing of Coughlan and Melissa Reid led 1 up over Leon and Jane Park through 16 holes, but lost the final two when Reid missed a short par-saving putt at the 17th and Coughlan hit a weak bump-and-run attempt for their third shot on the par-5 18th. The ball trickled into a short-side bunker.

Coughlan asked to sit out Sunday foursomes. (She was left out of singles, too, after O’Sullivan opted to stick with the players who had won 21⁄2 points in the morning session.)

“Claire wasn’t firing on all four cylinders today and this is about a team,” O’Sullivan said. “Claire was actually the type of person who came up to me and said, ‘Look, I would actually prefer not to be playing in the morning.’ My mind was already made up anyway, but that’s the type of person that she is.”









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