NAIRN, Scotland – Lindy Duncan and Lisa McCloskey learn quickly. And after a morning foursomes session in which the U.S. Curtis Cup team swept three matches at Nairn Golf Club, it appears the whole team is a quick study at links golf.
Friday morning produced a chilly eastern breeze that chased the matches down the first seven holes before becoming a headwind as the course turned back inland. In the final match of the morning, Duncan and McCloskey – arguably the steadiest players on the American team – took on Stephanie Meadow and Leona Maguire, both of Northern Ireland. On paper, it appeared to be the most evenly matched pairing of the morning.
“We hit pretty much every single fairway, we didn’t have anything where we had to lay up and struggle for a bogey,” McCloskey said.
After McCloskey struck the first drive, Duncan stuck the approach to 6 feet. McCloskey made the birdie putt to go 1 up, and the U.S. players repeated that act two holes later. Neither player truly missed a shot until the par-3 11th, when McCloskey put her tee shot in a pot bunker – the first found by the U.S. all day.
“It only took one shot to get back in the rhythm,” she said. “We had a bunch of not-so-good shots.”
Meadow and Maguire struggled early to get anything going. As their opponents built a quick lead, the GB&I pairing found a series of pot bunkers and deep-rough lies. Neither could get a putt to fall, which wasn’t what either team was expecting.
“Our games our pretty similar, we play a lot of golf together and we felt like it was a good pairing but just today it didn’t go our way,” Maguire said of teaming up with Meadow.
After a brief comeback – Meadow and Maguire won Nos. 11 and 12 – Duncan completed an up-and-down for par at No. 13. A fist-pump escaped from the normally reserved Duke senior and a hole later, the U.S. closed out the match, 5 and 4.
“That par on 13, that was it,” Duncan said.
Consider Duncan and McCloskey one of the most unflappable tandems from either team. The two were paired together for nine holes during an early-week practice round and birdied three of the toughest holes on the back nine: Nos. 11, 12 and 13. It must have impressed U.S. captain Pat Cornett, who left them together for Friday afternoon fourballs.
Duncan and McCloskey won by the biggest margin of the day, but in the first match, Brooke Pancake and Austin Ernst had to fight to earn a point for the U.S. Opponents Amy Boulden and Kelly Tidy won the first hole for an immediate lead, and didn’t trail until the 17th hole. The difference came at the 14th, where the U.S. began to chip away at GB&I’s 2-up lead.
Tidy and Boulden lost holes to a U.S. par at Nos. 14, 16 and 17. They entered the final hole 1 down, and again traded pars with the U.S. to lose the match.
Shortly after, Amy Anderson and Tiffany Lua scored another point for the U.S. with a 2-and-1 victory over GB&I’s Holly Clyburn and Bronte Law.
With the U.S. sweep comes a disheartening fact for the GB&I squad: The U.S. has won all three opening matches five times in the 37-year history of the event (1932, ’54, ’62, 2002, ’06), and each time has come away with the Cup.