It was a victory parade for the U.S. at Quaker Ridge (USGA photo)
SCARSDALE, N.Y. (June 10, 2018) – Olivia Mehaffey
’s night-before-singles speech for her Great Britain and Ireland teammates was about surfing. It seemed appropriate for this trip to the United States, even if GB&I players struggled to keep their heads above water.
The gist of the Northern Irishwoman’s message – an inspirational quote sent through the team’s group chat – was to keep your eye on the next wave. GB&I needed every bit of that encouragement after managing to earn only three points in the first four sessions at Quaker Ridge Golf Club while the U.S. took nine. On Sunday, the visitors lost all eight singles matches to the U.S. Only two of the eight matches reached the 18th green.
It’s the first time a team has swept all eight singles matches (the U.S. did something similar in 1990, when only six singles matches were played) in the history of the event. The 17-3 margin of victory is also the largest in Curtis Cup history, replacing an 11-point American victory in 1982 at Denver (Colo.) CC.
Try as they might to rally, the numbers were not lost on GB&I.
“I feel like I was just a bit flat out there,” Mehaffey said. “I felt like I wasn’t really playing for much – the trophy was so far away from us, it wasn’t a realistic goal to try to win after how far we were behind.”
The final matches were staged under a grey sky at Quaker Ridge. GB&I captain Elaine Farquharson-Black estimates that 300 supporters followed her team to New York, and it sounded like it on the first tee. Draped in cape-sized British and Irish flags – and with mini versions stuck in their back pockets and threaded through their hat loops – they sang made-up fight songs that included the names of the GB&I competitors.
It was that way all week. Andrea Lee
, who also played in the 2016 Curtis Cup at Dun Laoghaire in Ireland, gave up trying to gauge match status based on cheers Saturday because the visitors were just as loud, if not louder, than the home crowd.
Mehaffey, along with 20-year-old Englishwoman Sophie Lamb
, earned two and a half of GB&I’s three points. They were the first two women off the first tee on Sunday afternoon.
Mehaffey ran up against Sophia Schubert
, the U.S. Women’s Amateur champion, and incurred her first loss. Schubert, a week removed from fighting her game at the U.S. Women’s Open and finishing last, gave an inspired performance that ended on the 17th green.
Schubert began to feel like she had the edge after a par at No. 11 that moved her to 2 up.
“I felt like my momentum was going,” she said.
It’s tradition for the Women’s Amateur champion, if she’s on the Curtis Cup team, to lead the singles matches, but Schubert didn’t know that until she saw the pairings come out. It’s a good thing, because even though Schubert relished it, she knows it would have made her nervous.
“I was just ready to come out here and play their best player and just show them what I can do,” she said.
Far from rolling into the final day complacent from their six-point lead, the Americans showed up ready to go to battle. It was particularly impressive considering that the first match didn’t go off until 1 p.m. There was a lot of time to sit and think.
“My alarm went off at 10:15,” said American Kristen Gillman
. “But I woke up at 7:45.”
She teed off at 1:50 p.m.
Gillman secured the clinching point for the U.S. when she knocked off 15-year-old Annabell Fuller
and became only the third player in Curtis Cup history to go 5-0-0. She joins Stacy Lewis
(U.S.) and Bronte Law
(GB&I) in that distinguished group.
Gillman won the 2014 U.S. Women’s Amateur, but a wrist injury she incurred on the way to that title essentially kept her off the Curtis Cup squad two years later. She had to take five months away from golf in the months after her title.
Making this team has driven her ever since.
“Whenever I didn’t feel like practicing, that went through my mind,” she said.
U.S. captain Virginia Derby Grimes used Gillman to full effect this week. She paired her with Alabama teammate Lauren Stephenson twice. Gillman never saw Nos. 17 and 18 in competition.
“She is very gritty,” Derby Grimes said. “I like that. It's good to see. She's going to fight until the bitter end.”
Winning a Curtis Cup as a player, as Derby Grimes did in 1998, 2000 and 2006, is different from winning as the captain. It was one thing she discovered this week.
“The feeling is a great feeling, and of course I've never been on a losing side,” she said. “It's just a really good feeling, and it's good to see them get to experience that winning feeling.”