NAIRN, Scotland – Holly Clyburn will walk away from the Curtis Cup with this distinction: She’ll be the only GB&I player to see action in all five sessions.
Early week, it appeared the GB&I bench would be an equal opportunity one. Captain Tegwen Matthews sat each player for one match before Saturday afternoon’s final fourball session. Charley Hull, the highest ranked player on the GB&I team at No. 5 in the World Amateur Golf Rankings, got a second sit while Clyburn got to suit up. Sending Clyburn out seems a good decision from Matthews. So far this week, she’s been the most vocal of the GB&I players.
“My job now is to make sure we get the right pairings this afternoon,” Matthews said after her team took just one point out of morning foursomes. “We’ve been working hard on getting them right and I think we have.”
Clyburn and fourball partner Kelly Tidy produced the first GB&I point Friday afternoon. It came not a minute too soon – the team needed a rebound after losing all three morning foursome matches.
After a morning rout at the hands of the Americans, the GB&I squad entered the team room, pumped some Rihanna through the stereo and set aside a half hour to regroup. Clyburn said the new goal became putting one GB&I point on the board. Instead, the team got two. Claimed Clyburn, “We did it for our captain, if anything.”
In Clyburn, GB&I has a vocal and colorful leader. She’s one of three veterans on this year’s GB&I team (Leona Maguire and Pamela Pretswell also have played before), and carries herself around Nairn Golf Club with a hint of a bulldog attitude.
Clyburn and Amy Boulden played a see-saw foursomes match Saturday morning against Austin Ernst and Brooke Pancake. Clyburn holed a par putt to get the match back to even at No. 16, but the GB&I pairing ultimately bogeyed the next to fall 1 down and eventually lose the point.
“Me and Kelly (Tidy) are probably the vocalist ones and the ones who can say, ‘Come on girls, as much as we love each other, we’ve got to dig in deep and deliver,’” Clyburn said.
Clyburn didn’t get to play fourballs in her last Curtis Cup appearance, when the match was played at Essex County Club in Manchester-by-the-Sea, Mass. She put together a 1-1-1 record that week, most notably beating Stephanie Kono, 2 and 1, in singles.
Since then, Clyburn maintains she’s grown as a player and a person. In fact, she’s calls her golf game “100 percent stronger.” She turned up in the U.S. early in the spring to play the Florida Orange Blossom Circuit, a series of elite amateur events. She finished T-5 at the Harder Hall and ninth at the South Atlantic Amateur.
Clyburn has a good idea of her competition this week, having seen a handful of U.S. players in American settings, but tries not to think about it.
“You remember so much of their game, but you’re just focused on your game at the end of the day, you don’t want to get into their game,” she said.
Turns out, Clyburn is on their radar, too. In an early-week press conference, Pancake mentioned the Clyburn cheering contingent that already was rumored to be forming.
“I know when you play a match with her, if she does something well or her partner, there’s going to be some rowdiness I suppose,” Pancake said.
And they delivered. Clyburn guesses she has at least 30 fans in attendance this week. Many made a holiday of it, and tackled the nine-hour drive from Cleethorpes, England. Clyburn’s dad Paul did it in one day.
Spot those fans by the British flag-themed capes, pants, hats and any other type of patriotic gear available. But if that doesn’t work, just listen hard at the first tee.
“Probably you could hear them from, like, here when I was on the ninth green,” Clyburn said Friday from just beside the clubhouse.
That’s the beauty of the Curtis Cup.