Americans could learn a thing from Cornett

U.S. coach Pat Cornett

NAIRN, Scotland –- Despite frozen cheeks from an early-morning practice round at Nairn Golf Club, three assembled members of the U.S. Curtis Cup team paused at the question, "Has Coach Cornett told you much about her playing days?"

Glances are traded before answers follow.

“The next two days,” Amy Anderson said. “I feel like she’s going to talk about the first tee with us.”

In other words, Pat Cornett is a coach who won’t speak much about her own accolades, of which there are many. She has more than 50 starts in U.S. Golf Association championships, and eight of those were in the U.S. Women’s Open. She was runner-up at the 1987 U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur, and won the 1990 Women’s Western Amateur.

“Their accomplishments probably far exceed what I was ever able to accomplish,” Cornett said, in what could be described as a question dodged out of modesty. “But I think the thing that I tried to bring to them is, the conditions out here can change dramatically,”

Cornett, 56, has seen this competition before, too – from the other side. She was a member of the 1978 and ’88 U.S. Curtis Cup squads, and tasted victory at the former when the U.S. won at The Apawamis Club in Rye, N.Y., 12-6.

Cornett took away a combined 1-2-1 record from those cups, earning her victory against Carole Caldwell in singles in ’78.

It’s those kinds of stories that Cornett’s young team hopes to hear. To this point, however, Cornett has maintained an unassuming presence around Nairn Golf Club. For that also, her players are appreciative.

“She’s definitely not the type of person to ever get in our way,” Tiffany Lua said. “She always takes our thoughts and our opinions into consideration. She’s very determined, and I really admire that about her.”

Cornett essentially has adopted eight more daughters this week. Her two at home in California, Annemarie and Theresa, have given her practice in ruling with an iron fist. She can “turn it up” when need be, but mostly Cornett calls her coaching style laid-back. It matches that of her players, who so far have spoken the most about the raucous pingpong games held each night at the team hotel. Cornett simply shakes her head.

“Maybe I should think about that in terms of pairings,” she said jokingly.

But don’t be fooled that it’s the only thing a more-than-prepared Cornett would consider. Asked about her planning for the week, Cornett talks of spreadsheets and statistics. She was watching at summer amateur events, even if team members didn’t know she was there. Cornett also sought advice not only from a handful of former Curtis Cup captains, but also from Jim Holtgrieve, who last year brought the U.S. Walker Cup team to nearby Aberdeen.

Though the personal stories have been light, Erica Popson has picked up on Cornett’s tendency to evaluate the surroundings.

“The team meetings are very open. She wants everyone to talk in them,” Popson said. “I like her. She’s very organized; she’s very strategic. She always wants us talking and thinking.”

This week is only the second time Cornett has seen the team come together, after a team practice session in Palm Springs, Calif., early in the year. It’s one reason the players were selected so early. No doubt it’s a strong U.S. team, but Cornett is too experienced to take anything for granted.

“I think the match is still quite competitive,” Cornett said. “I was part of one when we didn’t come home with it.”

And that’s a story that seems just right for team-room motivation.

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