DUBLIN, Ireland (June 10, 2016) -- The scoreboard at the 39th Curtis Cup Match will say the USA is tied, 3-3, with Great Britain and Ireland after winning two of the available three points in Friday afternoon’s four-ball session at Dun Laoghaire Golf Club. However, the outcome could have been vastly different if the USA’s Bailey Tardy and Monica Vaughn hadn’t delivered a point at the end of the morning foursomes.
The USA was looking at a possible 2½- or 3-point deficit. Instead, the Americans’ 1-up decision over Meghan MacLaren and Maria Dunne provided much-needed momentum and a psychological boost to the rest of Captain Robin Burke’s team.
“If we had lost all three, it would have been hard for the girls to pick themselves up,” said Burke. “We feel fortunate that it’s 3-3.”
Recent Curtis Cup history suggests going down 3-0 after the first foursomes session is not an insurmountable deficit. GB&I built such a lead at Formby Golf Club in England in 2004 and lost the Match. The Americans did the same thing at The Nairn Golf Club in Scotland four years ago and lost. Momentum in team competitions can be fleeting, and can often turn on a single shot.
Tardy and Vaughn not only changed the USA’s fortunes, they came out in the afternoon and collected another victory.
“Bailey and Monica have really stepped up to the plate and they’re playing well together,” said Burke. “They’re both long hitters and they like to have a lot of fun. They’re fun to watch.”
Tardy, 19, of Peachtree Corners, Ga., and Vaughn, 21, of Reedsport, Ore., were 3 down with 10 to play before rallying to square the match with a conceded par on No. 14 and two-putting the 18th from 50 feet. Tardy lagged her long birdie putt beautifully up the slope, and then Vaughn, breathing as heavily as she ever has in a competition, calmly dropped the 3-foot par putt to clinch the much-needed point.
“That momentum going into the back nine was huge for us,” said Vaughn, a rising senior at Arizona State University, of winning the ninth hole to trim the deficit to 2 down. “We kind of said, ‘Hey let’s go, there’s a lot of golf left.’ It was huge. Our point in the morning maybe even helped our team in the afternoon.”
Reigning U.S. Women’s Amateur champion Hannah O’Sullivan, 18, of Chandler, Ariz., felt the swing. Paired for the second time with Mariel Galdiano, 17, of Pearl City, Hawaii – the two lost their morning foursomes match – O’Sullivan got hot with her putter and the team was the equivalent of 6 under par in defeating Olivia Mehaffey, 18, of Northern Ireland, and Charlotte Thomas, 23, of England. O’Sullivan, No. 1 in the Women’s World Amateur Golf Ranking™ (WAGR), registered all six of the team’s birdies, including 35-footers on Nos. 16 and 18.
On 16, Thomas converted a birdie from 40 feet, drawing loud applause from the partisan GB&I crowd. She also forced O’Sullivan to match, which she did. Then on 18, with Mehaffey sitting 12 feet from the hole for birdie, O’Sullivan never gave her a chance to putt by rolling in another long birdie, much to the delight of her teammates.
“It’s an incredible feeling,” said O’Sullivan. “I knew there was a lot of people watching. Standing over the putt, I saw the line really well. I knew Olivia had a really good chance for birdie and I didn’t want to give her that opportunity. I just said ‘good stroke’ and get it rolling on my line, and I hit it on my line and I loved watching it roll in.”
Added Burke: “That’s why she is the [U.S.] Women’s Amateur champion. She knows how to get it done. She showed what a champion is again today. She can handle the pressure.”
At virtually the same time, Tardy and Vaughn completed their 2-and-1 victory over Alice Hewson and MacLaren to pull the USA even going into Saturday’s three foursomes and three four-ball matches.
Despite the USA’s afternoon charge, GB&I Captain Elaine Farquharson-Black said her team was not crestfallen.
“They’re very bubbly,” said Farquharson-Black. “Everyone gets along. There’s a lot of banter. It’s good. We regroup and start again.”
GB&I came out with a strategy of playing its highest-ranked players in the first two matches of each session. That meant world No. 2 Leona Maguire and world No. 4 Bronte Law – winners of the last two Annika Awards for being the U.S. college player of the year (Maguire in 2015 at Duke University and Law this year for UCLA) – were hoping to be table-setters for early points.
It worked well in the morning foursomes when Law and world No. 8 Mehaffey posted a 2-and-1 win over O’Sullivan and Galdiano, and Thomas, No. 40 in the WAGR and fresh from helping the University of Washington win the NCAA championship, and Maguire rallied from an early 2-down deficit to beat Andrea Lee and Mika Liu, 4 and 2.
It looked to be going well again in the afternoon four-ball session when Maguire and Law shot 6 under over 15 holes to give GB&I a 3-1 lead with an impressive 4-and-3 victory over Sierra Brooks and Bethany Wu, Law’s UCLA teammate.
“Absolutely, 100 percent,” Law said of the game plan. “The whole point was to get points early and get the momentum on our side. And we hope to replicate the same thing tomorrow.
“Some putts didn’t really drop for our girls [in the afternoon], but I think we’re in a really good position. Our captain seems very happy with our pairings.”
The Curtis Cup is a biennial team competition featuring eight female amateur golfers from the USA and Great Britain and Ireland. The USGA selects the USA players, while the Ladies’ Golf Union picks the GB&I side. The three-day competition includes three foursomes and four-ball matches the first two days and eight singles matches on Sunday. The USA needs 10 points to retain the Cup and GB&I needs 10½ to reclaim it.
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