Curtis countdown: Women scramble for 3 spots

Emily Tubert

It’s crunch time for a small band of American players trying to make this summer’s Curtis Cup team. Emily Tubert flew south of the border on Thursday to vie for the Mexican Amateur title. Ashleigh Albrecht, Brittany Altamore, Kyle Roig and Jaye Marie Green are among those trying to make last-minute noise on the Florida Orange Blossom Circuit.

The U.S. Golf Association tried something different this year (a la the Walker Cup) and announced five of the eight team members just before Christmas. Amy Anderson, Lindy Duncan, Austin Ernst, Tiffany Lua and Brooke Pancake will represent the U.S. in the June 8-10 matches at The Nairn Golf Club in Scotland.

This year’s team, though solid, won’t boast a big-name superstar as so many of the past. There’s no one with the stature of a Paula Creamer, Michelle Wie, Amanda Blumenherst or Lexi Thompson. In fact, it’s not as easy to pinpoint this year’s squad as with previous teams. Especially with players such as Danielle Kang and Stephanie Kono having turned professional.

The USGA intends to announce the remaining members of the team sometime this month, which means the Orange Blossom events are the last chance for players to make their cases.

If I were Curtis Cup czar, I’d put Tubert on that team, even though her 2011 wasn’t as solid as her 2010. The ’10 Women’s Amateur Public Links champ was on the winning U.S. team at the Spirit Cup. She’s a terrific team player, long off the tee and as enthusiastic as they come.

Green, Golfweek’s top-ranked amateur, would be my other solid pick. She won the 2011 South Atlantic Amateur and is ranked fourth in the Golfweek/Sagarin Junior Rankings. Green tallied a team-high 2 1/2 points at the 2011 Junior Solheim Cup, helping the U.S. retain the cup. She’d be the only junior on this year’s team. Green is scheduled to defend her title at next week’s Sally in Ormond Beach, Fla.

As for the last spot, well, several players have a chance to make an impression on U.S. captain Patricia Cornett. Albrecht started slowly at the Harder Hall in Sebring. “I just needed putts to drop,” she said after an opening 78. The 2011 Harder Hall champ needs to win again this week (or lose to a foreigner) to have a shot. She’s 25th in the college rankings, with a victory at Kentucky’s home event, the Bettie Lou Evans Fall Invitational. Albrecht hasn’t been outside the country except to lie on a beach in Tahiti.

Virginia’s Brittany Altomare made it to the quarterfinals of last year’s WAPL and the Sweet 16 of the Women’s North & South and Women’s Western. She’s 21st in the college rankings and 14th in the amateur rankings. A victory in Ormond Beach would bolster her chances. (If the selection committee didn’t put any stock in these winter amateur events, it would’ve announced the entire team in December.)

Lisa McCloskey didn’t make the trip to Florida, but she’s worth a mention. She has yet to win a major title, but the USC senior can be a birdie machine when she gets hot. McCloskey is eighth in the college rankings. A rib injury kept her out of last year’s NCAA postseason.

Also, I wouldn’t be totally shocked if four-time U.S. Women’s Mid-Am champ Ellen Port were to get a call. The 50-year-old mother of two might struggle to keep up with the best “kids” in the country, but she now has four USGA titles to her credit. With so many college players clumped together, this could be a good year to reward the Mid-Am champ.

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