ST. LOUIS – On the eve of the 38th Curtis Cup, Mariah Stackhouse asked captain Ellen Port if the team planned to gather on the first tee. She’d like to say a few words, if it pleased the captain.
And so at 7:45 a.m., Team USA huddled on the opening hole at St. Louis Country Club where Stackhouse, a junior at Stanford, delivered an impassioned speech, encouraging her teammates to play for each other.
“We got here this week because we earned it,” Stackhouse said. “Play like we deserve this.”
Emma Talley, Stackhouse’s close friend and partner in the morning four-ball match, said the speech made everyone a little teary-eyed.
Talley, playing in the opening match with Stackhouse, knocked her approach on the first hole to 2 feet and made birdie. Port fist-bumped those around her on the first tee as she spread the news.
It was early, but Stackhouse had them buzzing.
As it turned out, the momentum never stalled, with Team USA sweeping the morning session 3-0.
“I feel like we had a better morning on the greens and that can turn around real quick,” said Port.
Team USA posted only two bogeys as a team in three matches, and both of those bogeys came in the Ally McDonald-Annie Park pairing. Port’s team was a combined 17 under par on the Charles Blair Macdonald track.
The quality of golf on display in the opening match was nothing short of superb. Stackhouse and Talley made eight birdies in 17 holes with no bogeys, winning 2 and 1. But while GB&I’s Stephanie Meadow and Georgia Hall found themselves down 3 holes at the turn, they climbed back, threatening to cut the lead to 1 up on the 14th hole after Meadow made a 15-foot birdie putt. But, as it often happened in this group, the hole was halved after Talley knocked in a 12-foot birdie.
Four holes in the match were halved with birdies. 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.
For Talley, it was a match against her teammate and roommate at Alabama. The 2013 U.S. Women’s Amateur champ said she hoped to square off against Meadow who won the British Ladies Amateur at Carnoustie in 2012.
“It’s just fun,” said Talley, “we never really play head to head except in (school) qualifying.”
It makes sense that GB&I captain Tegwan Matthews chose to keep Meadow and Hall together for the alternate-shot session this afternoon. They’ll take on Ashlan Ramsey, who sat out this morning’s session, and Lee at 1:30 p.m.
UCLA’s Erynne Lee will make her Cup debut alongside USC rival Annie Park. They’ll square off at 1:42 against Gabriella Cowley and Eilidh Briggs, neither of whom played four-balls.
And in the final match, Port said she put together her two comedians in Talley and Ally McDonald. They’ll face UCLA’s Bronte Law and 17-year-old Annabel Dimmock at 1:54 p.m.
That leaves Stackhouse on the sidelines this afternoon rallying the troops. Maybe she’ll take a look at her notes for the psychology exam that’s being proctored Friday evening.
Port knows Stackhouse will deliver in whatever role she takes on, even if it’s from outside the ropes.
“It’s one of the reasons she’s on this team,” Port said. “Her passion and her ability to articulate and lead at the right times and in the right ways. Our team basically said Mariah for president after she gave the speech.”