World team snaps ISPS Handa Cup skid with victory

OLD HICKORY, Tenn. –– It took eight tries, but the LPGA Legends Tour finally witnessed a breakthrough in its premier team event on Sunday.

The Legends’ U.S.-born players had won the ISPS Handa Cup six straight times before retaining it last year after the matches ended in a 24-24 tie at Reunion Resort in Orlando, Fla. Now, the cherished Cup is finally in the hands of the World team after a 27-21 victory Sunday at Hermitage Golf Club on the outskirts of Nashville, Tenn.

Entering Sunday's singles matches with a 14-10 lead, the World team lost the opening singles point after Beth Daniel of the U.S. defeated England’s Laura Davies.

But the World team got the point right back after American Rosie Jones lost her first Handa Cup match in five years, falling to Trish Johnson in the second match.

Later, Mieko Nomura’s rout of Pat Bradley gave the World team a 24-14 advantage before 30-foot birdie putt by Australian Jan Stephenson in the next-to-the-last match of the day assured the World team its long-awaited victory.

"It took a few years for the World team to practice and get better and better and better," said captain Pia Nilsson of Sweden. "We were a team this week, and the passion was so strong. This is just going to make this competition even better, to grow in the future."

JoAnne Carner, the first U.S. captain to lose, took the defeat in stride.

"Sometimes you hate to lose, but the way the World team played this week I have no repercussions whatsoever," Carner said. "They just outplayed us."

No site has been announced for next year’s Handa Cup, though Hermitage owner Mike Eller said, "We love company. . . . We hope we can do it again."

And the players certainly seemed receptive to returning to the course that hosted the LPGA’s Sara Lee Classic from 1988-2002.

The next event on the Legends’ schedule also has a Handa connection. The ISPS Handa Open Championship will be held Nov. 8-10 at Innisbrook Resort near Tampa, Fla.

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