NAIRN, Scotland – For Emily Tubert, the past three days have been an exercise in climate change and links golf. She’s eaten some words along the way, but so have her seven U.S. teammates.
The Americans first saw Nairn Golf Club, site of this week’s 37th Curtis Cup, on Monday. At first glance, they guessed the greens might be something similar to those back home. Seven members of the eight-woman team arrived days after competing in the NCAA Women’s Championship at Vanderbilt Legends Club in Franklin, Tenn. Newly installed Bermudagrass greens had given players fits there all week. How much worse could Scotland be?
“We ate our words pretty quickly,” Tubert said. “Especially yesterday afternoon playing downwind. We got some hard bounces, and, man, they release.”
Through three practice rounds, the U.S. team has become comfortable with the seaside venue, an Old Tom Morris and James Braid design that butts up against the edge of the Moray Firth. The first seven holes run along the seashore, then the course winds back around to the clubhouse. Fairways are narrow, breaks in the greens are subtle and gorse and fescue are plentiful.
“It’s definitely playing tough,” Tiffany Lua said. “It’s a really good match-play course.”
You might say the Americans have been eased into the sometimes harsh weather conditions of northern Scotland. It just took three days to happen. The team has played its practice rounds at Nairn Golf Club in varying weather conditions: the first, cold; the second, windy; and the third, drizzly.
“I actually think it’s been great to have them see how the conditions change and how they have to adjust their game,” U.S. coach Pat Cornett said.
College team jerseys were shucked after last week’s NCAAs, red-white-and blues were donned and Cornett has been experimenting with partnerships so far. In the evening, at the Golf View Hotel down the street, players have been experimenting with pingpong – alternate-shot style.
“It’s intense,” Austin Ernst said. “Definitely the competitive stuff comes out.”
That’s good news for Cornett.
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ON YOUR TOES, GIRLS: Cornett’s lips are tightly sealed about anything concerning pairings. Those won’t be announced until tournament eve.
Still, Cornett concedes that she’s lucky to have a team on which “anybody can play with anybody.”
“I have no qualms about saying, ‘Hey, you two are going out,’ ” she said. “They know that could happen.”
It seems the most uncertain part of the week could be filling the bench.
“I think the hardest thing for me is going to be saying to two of them that they’re not playing this one.”
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ONE WAY TO FIGHT JET LAG: There’s no sleeping through a round of golf at Carnoustie, site of last year’s Ricoh Women’s British Open and seven previous Open Championships. It’s why, hours after the Americans hit Scotland soil, they were turned loose upon that beast.
Lua called it the best course she’s ever played in terms of bunker placement, and relished the opportunity to play such a famous track. But what she heard from a few locals surprised her: “We thought Carnoustie was a pretty tough golf course and we asked them what they thought of Nairn. They said Nairn was narrower.”
Aside from helping the Americans adjust their body clocks, Carnoustie served as a first glance at links golf.
“My impression was, it really opened up their eyes to a links-style golf course, which I think is a more radical links style than this,” Cornett said.
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INSPIRATION: When Lindy Duncan received a direct shout-out from Stacy Lewis in a team-directed e-mail earlier this week, she put her head down as the team had a good laugh. Duncan sheepishly tells the story behind that email – and had a cold North Sea breeze not reddened her cheeks already, she might even have blushed.
Lewis showed up at the NCAA Championship last week to work with swing coach Joe Hallett, director of instruction at the Legends Club, and Duncan quickly caught sight of her. The two had never met, so a shy Duncan dragged Curtis Cup teammate Brooke Pancake out to chat with Lewis, too.
Though nervous, Duncan remembers discussing the Curtis Cup (Lewis was on the last U.S. team to travel to Scotland when the Cup was contested in 2008 at St. Andrews). What she really wanted, however, was to watch Lewis putt. When another Curtis Cup teammate, Austin Ernst, told Lewis, Lewis instead suggested that she watch Duncan putt instead.
“I couldn’t really hold the club very well,” Duncan said. “I was a little bit shaky.”
Despite the embarrassment, Duncan said that afternoon was one of the highlights of the entire week. It was even better that Lewis gave Duncan a special shout-out again this week.
“I just put my head down and I was like, ‘What have I done?’ ” Duncan said upon hearing that email read aloud. “I just kept thinking that because she said something in the email like, ‘Lindy, I’ll definitely be watching, so don’t be too nervous.’”
Lewis’ note is just one in a long line of positive reinforcement that has been pouring in this week courtesy of everyone from past Curtis Cup participants and captains to USGA officials. Reading the notes is part of a nightly team ritual for the U.S. squad.
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NUMBER OF THE DAY: 144. That’s how many USA tattoos Lua guessed it would take to get an eight-woman Curtis Cup team through three days of competition. Trouble is, Lua forgot them in her car trunk back home in California. Add them to a growing list of things that didn’t make it into Lua’s suitcase this week.
“I’m hoping (my mom) brings them, but I forgot a lot of things,” Lua said.
Safe to say that’s not something she’s likely to find at the local Nickel and Dime store.
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QUOTE OF THE DAY: “There can be no better place with enthusiastic crowds than here in Scotland. I’m trying to prepare them for that.”
– Cornett, on the large galleries expected this weekend at Nairn Golf Club