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Sunday, June 12, 2016

Great Britain & Ireland beats U.S. in Dublin to claim Curtis Cup

   The Curtis Cup Match between the United States and Great Britain & Ireland, completed Sunday in Dublin, Ireland, was a fascinating matchup between a young group of Americans and a homestanding GB&I squad that featured some of the top players in college golf, including the last two Annika Award winners.
   And while Team USA may have been deeper, GB&I had Bronte Law, Leona Maguire and Charlotte Thomas and, I’m quite certain, the full-throated support of Maguire’s fellow Irish men and women in claiming an 11.5-8.5 victory. It was only the third GB&I victory in the last 20 editions of the Curtis Cup, but its second straight on home soil.
   The United States seems to struggle in the team matches in these things, whether it be Curtis, Walker, Ryder or Solheim, and that was the case this weekend at Dun Laughaire Golf Club. GB&I won five of six available points Saturday, including a dominating sweep of the foursome matches, to take a commanding 8-4 lead into the Sunday singles.
   Team USA captain Robin Burke front-loaded her lineup with the likes of reigning U.S. Amateur champion Hannah O’Sullivan, No. 1 in the latest World Amateur Golf Ranking, Bailey Tardy, No. 9 in the world, Sierra Brooks, runnerup to O’Sullivan at last summer’s U.S. Women’s Amateur and No. 5 in the world, Monica Vaughn, No. 17 in the world, and Andrea Lee, No. 26 in the world.
   Victories by Tardy, a sophomore at Georgia, Vaughn, an Arizona State senior and Lee, who’s headed for Stanford later this summer, and a half by O’Sullivan, a Southern California commit, got the U.S. within 9.5-7.5.
   But GB&I’s Meghan MacLaren, a recent Florida International graduate, got the winning point with a hard-fought 2 and 1 win over Bethany Wu, a UCLA sophomore, and then Wu’s UCLA teammate, Law, coming off an Annika Award season in Los Angeles, completed a 5-0 run through the weekend with a 2-up victory Mika Liu, who, like Lee, is a Stanford recruit.
   “The team was just incredible,” Law, No. 4 in the world, told the USGA website.  “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.”
   The heavyweight matchup in singles featured Maguire, the 2015 Annika Award winner who will be a junior at Duke and is No. 2 in the world, against Brooks, No. 5 in the world, with Maguire claiming a 3 and 2 victory.
   Before hitting a shot in college golf, Brooks, who is headed for Wake Forest, has already experienced the cauldron of a U.S. Amateur final and a Curtis Cup matchup with the best Irish woman’s golfer since, I don’t know, ever, in Ireland.
   Tardy, No. 9 in the world, found herself matched up with Charlotte Thomas, a couple of weeks removed from leading Washington to the NCAA championship in an epic battle with Stanford, and Tardy pulled out a 4 and 3 win.
   But the damage was done Saturday. After getting a 3-3 split in Friday’s foursomes and four-ball matches, the only point the U.S. could salvage Saturday was a 1-up victory by Wu and O’Sullivan over Maguire and Thomas.
   Law teamed with Olivia Mehaffey, No. 8 in the world and coming off a strong freshman season at Clemson, to claim a 3 and 2 victory over Vaughn and Law’s UCLA teammate Wu in a four-ball match and a 3 and 2 win over Tardy and Vaughn in a foursomes match.
   In the other four-ball matches, MacLaren and Dunne claimed a 3 and 2 win over Tardy and Mariel Galdiano, the No. 5 player in the world who will join Law and Wu at UCLA, and Maguire and Thomas rolled to a 5 and 4 win over O’Sullivan and Liu.
   GB&I’s other foursomes win Saturday came from MacLaren and Dunne, who knocked off Brooks and Lee, 1-up.
   The countdown for U.S. Women’s Amateur at Rolling Green Golf Club will be at 48 days Monday. Pretty sure most of the members of the U.S. Curtis Cup team will be headed for Springfield for the Aug. 1 start of qualifying for match play. Not so sure about some of the GB&I players, but we’ll see.
   One thing’s for sure, many of the players who will be at Rolling Green will be battling it out in LPGA majors some day like the tussle going on between 2012 U.S. Women’s Amateur champion Lydia Ko and 2014 U.S. Women’s Amateur runnerup Brooke Henderson for the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship while I’ve been writing this post.

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