Americans take 5-1 lead after Day 1 of Curtis Cup
Saturday, June 7, 2014
ST. LOUIS – Day 1 of the 38th Curtis Cup started with an inspiring speech from the mighty Mariah Stackhouse and ended with a 5-1 lead for Team USA. There were a few hiccups here and there – the odd three-putt from the Americans or wayward drive – but overall a spectacular display of golf.
Great Britain and Ireland captain Tegwen Matthews told her team there was no time for despondency. They played high-quality golf. The Americans simply played better.
“We were beaten by the Americans on the greens, in particular,” Matthews said. “They holed more putts.”
When it was over, Matthews and her players spent 30 minutes hashing out a plan for Saturday’s four-ball session. She told them quite plainly that they simply had to sweep Saturday’s morning matches.
“It’s a lot of pressure,” Matthews said, "but that’s why these girls are here.”
Meanwhile in the American camp, Ellen Port realized that what’s normally said when teams get off to an early lead – the bit about how no lead is too safe and they were up 4-2 at this point two years ago and lost – doesn’t need to be hammered into these eight heads.
“These girls aren’t normal,” she said.
And by that Port means they’re impressively mature, a close group that plays with great poise. They’re laid-back, enjoyable and respectful of one another. Perhaps that’s because of the eight college players on this team, there is no clear-cut superstar, no diva. There also isn’t a weak link.
“Overall, we're deep as a team,” said UCLA’s Erynne Lee. “That's what everybody is saying. I mean, we all have impressive resumés in match play and just, like, amateur golf. So I mean, like, we're literally invincible I feel like.”
That’s a bit extreme, but there’s surely no shortage of confidence.
Port, 52, said her team’s fast start came as no surprise.
“I’m old,” she said. “Nothing will surprise me.”
She went on to say she was prepared for everything, including being shut out by the GB&I team. That, of course, is a preposterous idea, but we get the point.
GB&I’s only real lift of the day came in the last match when Ally McDonald and Emma Talley three-putted the 18th hole to halve the match with Bronte Law and Annabel Dimmock.
“It's the momentum shift,” said Law, one of two players returning from last year’s victorious 2012 team. “We'll take that into tomorrow and come out raring to go.”
Meg Mallon came to a Curtis Cup for the first time to cheer for five players who were on her 2011 U.S. Junior Solheim Cup team. Beth Daniel, a two-time Curtis Cup player who held a 7-1 record (4-0 in singles), was one of several past players in the gallery.
The scene on the first tee Friday morning, with the silver Curtis Cup resting under a replica of St. Louis’ famed Gateway Arch and GB&I supporters belting out new lyrics to an old Irish tune, is one that can be found only in team golf.
Stackhouse, who asked Port whether she could say a few words to the team before the start of play, delivered such an impassioned speech that players left the huddle wiping tears.
“Our team basically said 'Mariah for president' after she gave the speech,” Port said.
The quality of golf on display in the day’s opening match was superb. Stackhouse and Talley made eight birdies in 17 holes with no bogeys, winning 2 and 1. GB&I’s Stephanie Meadow and Georgia Hall were 6 under.
Four holes in the match were halved with birdies.
“That was probably one of the best matches I've ever played in my entire life,” Meadow said.
Stackhouse made a 3-foot par putt on the 17th hole to end it.
“I’m not going to lie: my hands were shaking,” she said.
The Stanford junior had a psychology exam Friday evening and studied during the front nine of the afternoon session, and then came back out to cheer on her teammates as they made the turn.
Port, a St. Louis golf legend in her own right, spent more time talking to those in the gallery than she did to her players.
There is no micromanaging on the part of Port. She’s scheming pairings and making herself available, but mostly she’s like the rest of us: enjoying the show.
“Have you been out there?” Port asks. “It's just the way they carry themselves. The way Alison Lee waves when she hits a good shot. I just was pulling for her on 18, because she just is so gracious and so poised and so beautiful. Just like, ‘Yeah, I hit another good shot.’ ”
Plenty more of that to come.