Olivia Mehaffey (L) after making her putt to halve the match (USGA photo)
SCARDSDALE, N.Y. (June 8, 2018) – Olivia Mehaffey takes her leadership position on the Great Britain and Ireland Curtis Cup squad very seriously. She just had to get that self-imposed burden out of her head on Friday morning to do the job effectively.
When Mehaffey, part of the victorious 2016 GB&I squad, and partner Sophie Lamb made the turn at Quaker Ridge Golf Club shortly before the lunch hour, they were 3 down to Americans Lucy Li and Jennifer Kupcho. Mehaffey got a little bit angry, and the self-talk was not pretty.
“I just got comfortable on the back side, thought I had nothing to lose,” Mehaffey said. “I remember (in 2016) Bronte (Law) and I were 4 down and we won a match. I knew not to give up.”
Lamb had been keeping GB&I in the match until that point, but was happy for the help from Mehaffey, a longtime friend but first-time partner in this format.
“You redeemed yourself,” Lamb told her just off the 18th green after Mehaffey holed a 12-footer for par.
Mehaffey’s mid-round rally resulted in an unlikely half-point for the GB&I duo in the first four-ball match of the morning. Behind them, the second match was a lop-sided 4-and-3 U.S. victory. GB&I squeaked out another half point in the third and final match, which left America with a 2-1 lead after the first session.
Mehaffey and Lamb’s partnership was more about keeping each other calm on the course and both their heads in the game. Mehaffey’s aggressive play produced birdies at Nos. 13, 15 and 17, plus a palpable momentum shift after Kupcho and Li all but had this one in the bag.
“We’re both pretty fired up, but we just keep it in,” Lamb said.
They were a strong duo for GB&I captain Elaine Farquharson-Black to send off in the first match, and she kept them paired together to lead afternoon foursomes.
“We didn’t play too bad, they just started making birdies,” Kupcho said of the duo.
Kupcho, a month removed from winning the NCAA individual title, admitted to being a little nervous in the starting position even though 15-year-old Li wouldn’t. On some level, it was just nice to get these matches started. There has been plenty of pomp and circumstance in the week-long lead-up to the 40th playing of this event.
“There’s only so much preparation and team talks you can do,” said Irishwoman Paula Grant, at 24 the oldest player on either team.
For the most part, Farquharson-Black had her squad focusing on work around the greens in the run-up to the matches. It became evident Friday just how important that was. Players merely had to tap the ball on the green to get it rolling, but Grant was also thinking about placement.
“You can’t just go pin-seeking all the time because you could end up 10 feet past the pin and just have no way of stopping it, or be in a bunker and be short-sided,” she said. “Sometimes par is a good score on some of those holes.”
Grant, however, made two crucial birdies in the morning’s anchor match to get half a point. She carried the severe slope on the front of No. 1 green to set up an easy birdie as her American opponents watched their approach putts roll all the way back down the hill to their feet. Even more importantly, she nestled a soft 7-iron to the middle of the green at No. 18 and made the birdie putt for the halve.
Grant, partnered with 18-year-old Shannon McWilliam, knew it would take heroics at the last hole to salvage their match. Past that, however, even the roars from across the course didn’t help much in gauging the status of the other morning matches.
“The cheers are kind of similar in loudness so I wasn’t sure who was holing putts,” she said.
ABOUT THE Curtis Cup
Officially named "The Women's
International Cup," the first Curtis Cup
wasn't officially held until 1932. The
biennial competition features the best
female players from the United States of
America pitted against a similar squad
from Great Britain and Ireland. While it
was hoped that many nations would
eventually join the Match, the Curtis Cup
has remained a two-sided competition.
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