SCARSDALE, N.Y. – Olivia Mehaffey danced. She sang. She pulled an inspirational quote off of Google and Whatsapped it to the Great Britain and Ireland team. The Irish star did everything she could think of to try to rally the troops, but in the end, even Mehaffey came into Sunday singles at the 40th Curtis Cup mostly flat. Team USA needed only 1½ points to take back the cup. It felt like it was over before it even began.
“It felt like I wasn’t really playing for much,” Mehaffey said. “Just felt like the trophy was so far away from us, and it wasn’t a realistic goal to try and win after how far we were behind.”
A loaded U.S. team swept all five sessions at the Curtis Cup, smashing the singles 8-0. The final tally, 17-3, was the largest margin of victory in event history, the previous record of 11 coming in 1982 at Denver Country Club. Everyone on Team USA put up at least two points. It marked the first singles sweep since 1990.
Kristen Gillman, the 2014 U.S. Women’s Amateur champion who was left off the 2016 Curtis Cup squad, became only the third player in Curtis Cup history to go 5-0-0, joining Stacy Lewis (2008) and Bronte Law (2016). To top it off, Gillman clinched the Cup for the Americans on Sunday with her 5-and-4 victory over Annabell Fuller.
“I’ve had the best week of my life,” said Gillman, one of two first-team All-Americans from Alabama on the roster of eight.
Sophia Schubert, the 2017 U.S. Women’s Amateur champion, went out in the first match against Mehaffey, the only player ranked inside the top 20 on GB&I’s roster. (For reference, the worst-ranked player on the American team was 22nd.) Schubert defeated Mehaffey 2 and 1.
Every time there’s a lopsided score at this event, a conversation starts about inviting the rest of Europe to the party. But those who have been involved with the event for decades bristle at the notion. For starters, it’s tradition. And perhaps most importantly to the Great Britain and Ireland side, a tremendous opportunity for their players. Add Europe and the number of GB&I players making the team drops significantly.
Besides, GB&I won the last two matches on home soil.
“I think the legacy is too rich in this tournament to change it to Europe,” said Mehaffey, who went on to offer what she believes might help going forward.
Mehaffey, a member of the 2017 NCAA championship team at Arizona State, would like to see more players from her part of the world play American collegiate golf as a way to prepare for the LPGA. Seven of the eight U.S. players are college stars. India Clyburn (N.C. State) and Alice Hewson (Clemson) are the only other GB&I team members currently playing college golf.
“I think I dominated in Europe before I came to college,” said Mehaffey, “was maybe World No. 3. Looking back there’s no way I was World No. 3, because the standard is just so different over here. I would love for the young girls to see how good the American players are.” Gwk