DUBLIN, Ireland (June 12, 2016) -- Meghan MacLaren raced toward fellow Englishwoman Bronte Law and bear-hugged her teammate, who was doing media interviews just off the 18th green at Dun Laoghaire Golf Club on Sunday afternoon. The gleeful joy between the two Great Britain and Ireland Curtis Cup competitors was palpable. The shouts from the partisan gallery were loud enough to carry up to nearby Sugar Loaf Mountain.
And the excitement was certainly justified.
MacLaren, 22, delivered the winning point on the 17th hole shortly before Law, 21, converted a 2-foot par putt to tie a record for most points in a single Match. Those singles wins ended what had been a valiant American comeback and gave GB&I an 11½-8½ triumph.
“Nothing even comes close to this,” said MacLaren, who graduated from Florida International University in May. “This is incredible. I can’t even put it into words.”
It was only the third GB&I victory in the biennial competition over the last 20 years, two of which have come in the Republic of Ireland. GB&I took the 1996 Match at Killarney Golf & Fishing Club, then endured a seven-Match losing streak to the Americans before winning again in 2012 at The Nairn Golf Club in Scotland. That Match saw GB&I rally on the final day for a one-point decision.
On Sunday, the home team came into the last eight singles matches with a four-point cushion, thanks to a sweep of the three four-ball matches on Saturday when GB&I shot a combined 20 under par.
With the Americans putting plenty of victories on the board – the score had narrowed to 9½-7½ and the USA was leading in the final match – MacLaren and Law knew they each had to earn no worse than a half-point. As the Cup defenders, the USA only needed 10 points to retain, while GB&I required 10½ points to reclaim it.
MacLaren saw a 3-up lead against Bethany Wu, 18, of Diamond Bar, Calif., vanish to 1 up after consecutive mistakes on Nos. 15 and 16. But a Wu bogey on the par-5 17th ended the match.
Up at 18, word of the victory was radioed back to the GB&I players watching Law, who took a 1-up lead over Mika Liu, 17, of Beverly Hills, Calif., at No. 17 with a conceded birdie. A few players had to hold back their excitement as Law executed a perfect pitch from greenside rough to 2 feet. Liu nearly holed her long birdie putt but then missed the come-backer for par. This set the stage for Law, who rolled in her par putt for the 2-up win, setting off a raucous celebration.
Players mobbed Law, a rising UCLA senior who joined American Stacy Lewis (2008) as the only players to post a 5-0 mark in a single Curtis Cup.
“The team was just incredible,” said Law, No. 4 in the Women’s World Amateur Golf Ranking™ (WAGR) and recipient of the 2016 Annika Award for being the nation’s top female collegiate golfer. “For me, coming into this, a lot of people had written us off. We kept hearing things that we have a 32-year-old (Maria Dunne) on the team and she’s just been unbelievable, as have all the rookies. For me to end it this way – it’s probably going to be my last Curtis Cup – is just a dream. I am so proud to just represent my country.”
Law was a member of the 2012 team before suffering through a six-point rout two years ago at St. Louis (Mo.) Country Club, a USA side that included two of her UCLA teammates (Alison Lee and Erynne Lee).
Leona Maguire, 21, of the Republic of Ireland, the other three-time Curtis Cup player for GB&I, also was on the 2012 team after losing in her first Match in 2010 at Essex County Club in Massachusetts as a 15-year-old rookie. Maguire, a Duke University junior who is No. 2 in the WAGR, completed a 4-1 weekend with a 3-and-2 win over Sierra Brooks, 17, of Sorrento, Fla.
The other half-point came from world No. 8 Olivia Mehaffey, 17, of Northern Ireland, who lipped out a 4-foot par putt on 18 to halve her match with world No. 1 and 2015 U.S. Women’s Amateur champion Hannah O’Sullivan, 18, of Chandler, Ariz.
“I thought they were going to pull it off and fought to the very end,” said USA captain Robin Burke. “I am proud of all of them. They have a lot of spirit and a lot of heart.
“[GB&I] just played really well yesterday. They made a ton of birdies on us … [and] we almost recovered. We just didn’t quite get there.”
Burke’s charges took the other four matches, including Bailey Tardy’s impressive 4-and-3 win over Charlotte Thomas, 23, of England, who helped the University of Washington win its first NCAA championship on May 25. Tardy, 19, of Peachtree Corners, Ga., was still fuming from a slow-play penalty in Saturday’s four-ball match, but played 3-under golf (with concessions) to finish her first Curtis Cup with a 3-2 mark.
“Honestly, I didn’t wake up with the alarm today,” said Tardy, a rising sophomore at the University of Georgia who qualified for next month’s U.S. Women’s Open. “We were leaving at 8 and I woke up at 6. I was just so ready to get out here and fight.”
Monica Vaughn, 21, of Reedsport, Ore., also finished 3-2 after a 4-and-3 win over Rochelle Morris, of England, who was held out of the first four sessions by Captain Elaine Farquharson-Black. The final two points came from 17-year-olds Andrea Lee, of Hermosa Beach, Calif., and Mariel Galdiano, of Pearl City, Hawaii, both of whom posted respective 2-and-1 wins over Alice Hewson, of England, and Dunne, of the Republic of Ireland, the first mid-amateur to represent GB&I in a Curtis Cup in 24 years.
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