By Alistair Tait, Golfweek
At least one member of this year’s Great Britain & Ireland Curtis Cup team might just want to thank England’s Charley Hull for her spot. Hull is probably responsible for a sensible decision to change the GB&I selection process.
The Ladies’ Golf Union has made a major change to the way this year’s GB&I team is selected. The top four GB&I players on the World Amateur Golf Ranking after the Welsh Open Stroke Play Championship that ends May 4th will automatically make the team. GB&I captain Tegwen Matthews and her group of selectors will then choose the remaining four players.
Previously the LGU selection panel picked all eight players. Needless to say, this system created a bit of controversy over the years. Scotland’s Gillian Stewart played in the 1980 and 1982 Curtis Cups yet was inexplicably left out of the 1984 match even though some considered her the best woman golfer in the British Isles, amateur or professional.
Becky Brewerton played in the 2000 match yet somehow wasn’t selected to the 2002 team even though everyone felt she should have been in the GB&I team, everyone except the selectors.
Which brings us to Hull.
Hull was head and shoulders the outstanding amateur in the British Isles two years ago. Yet she nearly missed out on her place at Nairn, Scotland.
Two years ago, the LGU stipulated that potential team members attend a team trial at the host venue. No attendance, no Curtis Cup place. Hull seemed to have forfeited her place when she understandably accepted an invitation to the Kraft Nabisco Championship, the first women’s major of the year.
The LGU was adamant Hull wouldn’t play in the match. Common sense prevailed at the last minute. The selectors recanted and selected Hull. Of course, GB&I went on to win the match for the first time since 1996, with Hull winning a valuable singles match on the final day.
Had the current system been in place, Hull’s spot wouldn’t have been in doubt. So well done to the LGU for coming up with a sensible policy that should make selection fairer. Although no one would ever admit it, I’m guessing the Hull fiasco contributed to the change.
Currently, the top four GB&I players on the world order are No. 4 Stephanie Meadow, No. 9 Georgia Hall, No. 32 Bronte Law and No. 42 Hayley Davis. Law and Meadow appeared in the GB&I team two years ago at Nairn, with Meadow gaining the winning point. There is a lot of jostling behind them to take one of those four automatic places.
There might still be some debate this year over team selection when the four picks are named, but at least half the team will deserve their places off an objective rating of women’s golf. Besides, there’s an argument that any captain should have some leeway on selection, say to get pick an experienced player or someone in form.
However, the players are the main beneficiaries of this new policy. At least four can earn their way onto the team on merit, and that’s the way it should be.