GB&I close gap at Curtis Cup, trail by a point

Back Row: Manager Anna Hubbard, Charley Hull (GB&I), Pamela Pretswell (GB&I), Holly Clyburn (GB&I), Leona Maguire (GB&I) Front Row: Bronte Law (GB&I), Kelly Tidy (GB&I), Tegwin Matthews (GB&I), Amy Boulden (GB&I), Stephanie Meadow (GB&I) as seen during the Opening Ceremony at the Curtis Cup Match at The Nairn Golf Club in Nairn, Nairnshire, Scotland on Thursday, June 7th, 2012.

NAIRN, Scotland – Tegwen Matthews makes no apologies about her roster. After a spirited rally from her Great Britain and Ireland squad, she doesn’t have to.

A decided momentum change took place in Saturday afternoon’s final fourball session. What had begun to look like an American rout nearly returned to even after GB&I took two and a half points away from the afternoon. The day began with the Americans leading 4-2. They’ll enter Sunday singles leading by only one point, 6 1/2 to 5 1/2.

Drizzly, grey conditions at Nairn Golf Club overshadowed morning foursomes as the U.S. took two of three matches. It increased the U.S. lead to 6-3, making the outlook bleak for GB&I.

“Where we were after the first round of foursomes, back against the wall without a doubt,” Matthews admitted.

Stephanie Meadow combined with Leona Maguire to claim GB&I’s sole point of the morning. That was a story of redemption for the Northern Irish tandem, who had lost to opponents Lindy Duncan and Lisa McCloskey the previous day.

“It was kind of like rematch time and there was no way they were beating us,” Meadow said.

The buzz from the GB&I rally would grow audible around Nairn by the afternoon, but Meadow says it didn’t come from any poetic words from Matthews. Very simply, the coach refused to throw in the towel.

“She just kept believing in us and saying that we can do this,” Meadow said. “I think that’s really key, especially after yesterday morning, we lost 3-0. To have someone there still saying, ‘You’re good enough, you can do this,’ that’s how special she is.”

Meadow combined with Pamela Pretswell in afternoon fourballs to earn another point, this time against Erica Popson and Tiffany Lua. Maguire and Bronte Law halved with Brooke Pancake and Austin Ernst in the previous match.

Still, you might say the charge was born in the leading group. That’s where Holly Clyburn and Kelly Tidy fought through the closest match of the day and defeated Americans Emily Tubert and Amy Anderson at the final hole. The loss ended Anderson’s perfect 3-0 record at Nairn.

That Clyburn played a fourth consecutive match while Charley Hull, GB&I’s top-ranked player, sat for a second time raised eyebrows. Matthews chalked it up to youth.

“She was not firing on all cylinders for this format,” she said.

Clyburn backed up her captain’s confidence by winning a second point for her team. Matthews calls the 20-year-old Englishwoman “strong as an ox.” She said she told Clyburn Friday afternoon she would need her for every match this week. Clyburn told her captain it was exactly what she was expecting.

“It would be madness to me to leave someone off playing if they’re striking the ball very well and also fit enough to get in five rounds,” Matthews said.

Clyburn displays the bulldog-like demeanor GB&I needed for a rally. Maguire shares it, but in a more low-key manor. After winning a point and a half Saturday afternoon, Maguire made clear her ruthless objective for this match, albeit shyly.

“I definitely think it’s easier to be the underdogs, and there’s not nearly as much pressure on us as the Americans,” she said.

She turned then and sprinted back down the 18th fairway with Law to cheer on the last group. The crowd, decidedly in GB&I’s favor, pressed against the ropes as that match made its way up the last hole. It’s that kind of atmosphere that makes it hard to argue that the Americans could take any sort of momentum from Saturday. GB&I simply hit better golf shots to put themselves back in the tournament.

U.S. captain Pat Cornett, who spent the day coaching from her golf cart after breaking her ankle in a bizarre golf cart accident between Friday’s sessions, still sees her team in prime position.

“You have to look at the scoreboard,” she said calmly, “but if I recollect we were ahead.”

When the Americans have led entering singles, they’ve won 23 of 24 times. Their singles record stands at 19-5-12. Those stats makes the U.S. good on paper, but GB&I has shown an ability to deliver the intangibles, right down to the coach.

“It’s game on,” Mathews said after a long day of golf. “And I’m confident that if all of my girls play as they did today, we will get there.”

• • •

Sunday's singles draw (times local)

10 a.m.: Austin Ernst (U.S.) vs. Kelly Tidy (GB&I)

10:10 a.m.: Emily Tubert vs. Amy Boulden

10:20 a.m.: Erica Popson vs. Holly Clyburn

10:30 a.m.: Lisa McCloskey vs. Pamela Pretswell

10:40 a.m.: Tiffany Lua vs. Bronte Law

10:50 a.m.: Lindy Duncan vs. Charley Hull

11:00 a.m.: Amy Anderson vs. Stephanie Meadow

11:10 a.m.: Brooke Pancake vs. Leona Maguire

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