ST. LOUIS – Everything here at St. Louis Country Club is rich. The club’s history, the tony mansions with lawns so lush that you want to stop the car and have a picnic, the polo field that doubles as a practice range and the assembled talent for the 38th Curtis Cup at this storied Charles Blair Macdonald design.
There’s a heightened sense of intrigue at this week’s matches after Great Britain and Ireland stunned the Americans in Scotland two years ago, ending a streak of seven consecutive victories for Team USA. The upset revitalized this event, in much the same way back-to-back European victories at the 2011 and ’13 Solheim Cup brought new energy to another lopsided affair.
“You’re definitely representing the United States on your home soil,” said American Ally McDonald of the added motivation. “You do not want to lose.”
The Curtis Cup gets too little ink, given the big names that have played over the years (Patty Berg, Louise Suggs, Nancy Lopez, Carol Semple Thompson, Beth Daniel, Patty Sheehan, Cristie Kerr, Paula Creamer, Michelle Wie and Lexi Thompson among them). It’s a terrific opportunity for golf fans to learn about up-and-coming LPGA stars in a rare team format. Best of all, they play for pride and country.
What you need to know about the June 6-8 matches:
• The event begins at 8 a.m. Friday with three four-ball matches followed by three foursomes matches in the afternoon. The same schedule will follow Saturday. The first of Sunday’s eight singles matches will tee off at 1:13 p.m.
The Curtis Cup added a third day of competition in 2008 at the Old Course in St. Andrews, Scotland, and Stacy Lewis became the first player to go 5-0.
• The U.S. leads the series, 27-7-3.
• This marks the sixth USGA event held at St. Louis Country Club. Previous championships: 1947 U.S. Open, the 1921 and ’60 U.S. Amateurs and the 1925 and ’72 and U.S. Women’s Amateurs.
Macdonald, winner of the first U.S. Amateur, also designed National Golf Links of America.
• U.S. captain Ellen Port didn’t take up golf until her mid-20s, a time when most of her Curtis Cup team will be several years into professional careers.
After Port won a few tournaments, her instructor suggested that she could make the Curtis Cup team.
“I said, ‘Well, what’s the Curtis Cup team?’ ” Port recalled. “You couldn’t Google back then. I don’t know how I found out.”
Port, 53, went on to compete in the 1994 and ’96 Curtis Cups and has six USGA championships to her credit.
Most notably, Port hails from St. Louis. The mother of two is an eight-time Missouri Women’s Amateur champion and a 12-time St. Louis Metropolitan champion.
• Not one American on this year’s roster has previous Curtis Cup experience. All eight are NCAA Division I college players, led by Golfweek’s No. 1-ranked Alison Lee, one of three UCLA players in the competition. The other Bruins: Erynne Lee, a senior from Silverdale, Wash, and Bronte Law, a sophomore from Stockport, England, and one of two returning players from the victorious 2012 GB&I team.
• With a player on each team, Alabama coach Mic Potter will once again have a divided heart. Northern Ireland’s Stephanie Meadow, the GB&I player who scored the winning point in Nairn, Scotland, returns as the oldest player on captain Tegwen Matthews’ team.
On the American side, Potter will cheer for 2013 U.S. Women’s Amateur champ Emma Talley. In 2012, Alabama’s Brooke Pancake played on the American squad but never met teammate Meadow in a match.
• Four players on team GB&I play college golf in America, making the grass, climate and atmosphere feel more like a home away from home. In addition to UCLA’s Law and Alabama’s Meadow, a recent college graduate who will turn professional after this week, Scotland’s Gemma Dryburgh will be a senior at Tulane and England’s Charlotte Thomas will be a junior at Washington.
• Matthews, a four-time GB&I player, returns for a third stint as team captain. A financial-services consultant in the U.K., Matthews became the first Welsh woman to captain a GB&I team, in 2010.
To help arrive at her pairings, Matthews said the team had an open discussion during the past two evenings and hashed out with whom everyone was comfortable playing, particularly in the foursomes format.
“It’s actually totally refreshing to me to have a team as brilliant as this, that we could have that open conversation with, that no one was afraid to say what they felt or what they were more comfortable with,” Matthews said. “It’s kind of strange, because all these girls are young, so you would think it would be something that would come from more maturity, but no, not necessarily. Certainly wasn’t in my day. You never said boo to a goose in my day; you did as you were told.”
• Stanford’s Mariah Stackhouse is the first black American to play in the Curtis Cup. One of her mentors, Condoleezza Rice, is the event’s honorary chair. Rice, the former secretary of state who is a professor at Stanford, will speak at Thursday’s opening ceremony.
• Seventeen-year-old Annabel Dimmock, the youngest player on either team, won the Scottish Open Stroke Play title in April. She’s from Surrey, England, Laura Davies’ home, and played with the legendary British player six months ago at Davies’ home course.
“She just does everything different, doesn’t she?” Dimmock said. “She proves to people that there’s not one way of doing something, which is great.”
Dimmock quit school at age 16 to pursue golf full-time. She plans to sign up for Ladies’ European Tour Q-School later this year and hopes to make the LPGA “as soon as possible.”
• The event will be televised on Golf Channel and, for those in the St. Louis area, tickets and parking are free.