Curtis Cup: US takes early lead

ST. ANDREWS, Scotland (May 31, 2008)--Stacy Lewis and Alison Walshe remained undefeated to help the USA build a 7½-4½ lead over the team from the Great Britain and Ireland after the second round of matches Saturday at the 2008 Curtis Cup Match, being played on the Old Course at St. Andrews.

In their morning foursomes (alternate-shot) match, Lewis, of The Woodlands, Texas, and Walshe, of Westford, Mass., never trailed against Scottish teenagers Sally Watson and Michele Thomson en route to a 5-and-4 victory. Their afternoon four-balls (best-ball) match against Liz Bennett and Florentyna Parker would not prove as easy.

The sides were all square for 13 of the match’s 18 holes. Bennett and Parker took a 1-up lead with a birdie on the eighth but Lewis birdied the ninth to square the match. The match remained all square until the 16th, when Lewis converted a 3-footer for par and a 1-up advantage. Kimberly Kim reacts after making a putt during her four-ball victory Saturday on the Old Course at St. Andrews. (Matthew Harris/USGA)

The GB&I team had two golden chances on the final two holes, but were unable to convert either. Parker missed a 12-footer for par on the 17th and then missed an 18-footer for birdie on No. 18, allowing the USA to escape with a 1-up victory and give the Americans a three-point lead heading into the final day.

The 2008 Curtis Cup Match concludes Sunday with eight singles matches, the first time all eight players from each side will compete in a singles session. The USA needs 10 total points – 2½ in singles – to retain the Curtis Cup for a sixth consecutive Match, while GB&I will have to garner six of the available eight points to gain the necessary 10½ points to regain the Cup for the first time since 1996.

“I think it was a huge momentum boost going into tomorrow, maintaining our lead,” said Lewis, the 2007 NCAA Division I individual women’s champion.

Through the first two days, Walshe is 3-0 and Lewis is 4-for-4 in the win column, which was her plan.

“I kind of wanted to do that coming into it,” she said. “I hit the ball the best I have this afternoon and made a lot of birdies and I’m just excited that I can help the team.”

Kimberly Kim of Hilo, Hawaii, and Mina Harigae of Monterey, Calif., earned their second consecutive four-ball victory with a 2-and-1 decision over Scotland’s Carly Booth and Breanne Loucks of Wales. But that win also didn’t come easy, as Harigae bent her putter on the 11th green and was forced to use her rescue club and sand wedge to putt for the rest of the match.

But it wasn’t enough to stop the American teenagers, who never trailed and took the lead for good when the GB&I side bogeyed No. 14.

“For the first hole I played I was really kind of shaken up and then I just thought, at least I’m hitting it well,” said Harigae, the 2007 U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links champion, about damaging her putter. “I figured all I had to do was make par because I knew Kim could get the birdies.”

The undefeated streak of three-time national collegiate player of the year Amanda Blumenherst of Scottsdale, Ariz., came to an end in the afternoon’s four-balls, as she and two-time defending U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur champion Meghan Bolger of Oakland Park, Fla., were defeated by Scottish teenagers Sally Watson and Krystle Caithness. Blumenherst had won two matches Friday and halved her foursomes match with Tiffany Joh against Bennett and England’s Jodi Ewart Saturday morning.

USA Captain Carol Semple Thompson, who played in a record 12 Curtis Cup Matches, was pleased with her team’s lead but knew that didn’t guarantee a victory for the Americans.

“I don’t think we can ever be too far ahead,” said Thompson, a seven-time USGA champion. “I’m very pleased to be three points ahead. I think we’ve had some really well-fought matches. I’m very proud of my team, to come through at the end. Getting two points this afternoon was huge.”

The Curtis Cup Match is a women’s amateur team competition played every other year, with one squad from the USA and the other representing England, Scotland, Northern Ireland, Ireland and Wales.

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