A Big Boost For Women’s Golf as USA Brings Home the Curtis Cup
By Tom Anselm
This past Friday, June 6, exactly 70 years since the United States and Great Britain joined with several other countries to storm the beaches of Normandy, France, the two major Allied forces came to blows, or at least ball strikes, on the lush and soon-to-be soggy St. Louis Country Club course for The 38th Curtis Cup Match.
This contest made co-combatants of the top women amateur golfers from the United States and Great Britain and Ireland. The play was incredible from the standpoint of observing the power and accuracy that these young women from the ages of 17 to 22 carried in their repertoire of shots. The USA team started out strong, nearly shutting out the GBI squad 5 points to 1 in fourball matches. The second day was hampered by two rain-delays of over an hour each, but again the home towners prevailed, ending the day with a commanding 9-2 lead the result of foursome wins, with one needing to be postponed after 15 holes until Sunday morning due to darkness.
The Brits rallied on the last day, pulling out singles matches worth 4 points, even after the Cup was won on the first round by Emma Talley as she rolled home a knee-wobbling 3-foot putt on Number 15 to win 4 and 3. The day ended with the home team taking possession of the Curtis Cup by a score of 13-7.
Now, sports fan, the above description is chock full of crazy terms that make match golf such an odd cousin to what we mostly see on TV and play in our own rounds. I will attempt to explain it for those who don’t have a clue about what was just written in a separate blurb. Ya know, baseball has a foul pole that if the ball hits it, it is fair, football has wide-outs and tight ends, and soccer features grownups in shorts and tee shirts during winter, so all sports have their idiosyncrasies. Golf is no exception.
But my focus here is not to give a blow-by-blow of the matches, except to say that these young women are scary good. A putt here or there for the GBI team could have swung the result, in spite of all the USA players ranking no lower than 38th in the world with 5 out of 8 players in the top 20 compared to GBI having 5 of their 8 ranking from 38 to 118.
I prefer to knock around some of the lesser reported items of this well-run United States Golf Association tilt.
One thing that stood out above all others in contrast to some of the other events I have seen was the crowd. There were a lot of kids there, maybe because it was free, maybe because it was a girls event. That was encouraging, especially if you recall the problems I mentioned with the popularity of golf turning downward.
Moms and sons, dads and daughters, grandpas and grandmas, all just hanging out. It was a happy family atmosphere. I saw lots of hugs and fist bumps between the gallery and players, which made sense, because these were young people who had the support of the whole clan, as in the case of Mariah Stackhouse from Atlanta, GA. I happened by her crew after Mariah’s round Sunday morning, when sadly she lost a 1-up lead to halve her match on the 18th hole. They couldn’t have been more decked out in their red, white and blue. And the pride in their progeny just poured from their smiles.
There was also a sizeable contingent who made the trek over the pond and halfway across ‘the States’, as they refer to the US. Talk about outfits! The Union Jack was well-represented along the course. I talked to two seasoned-citizens for whom this was their 4th Curtis Cup.
“We just like to come support the girls, is all,” said Jennifer Abbot, who was accompanied by friend Liz Frazer, both from Nairn, Scotland, scene of GBI’s win in 2012.
And a team event in golf lends itself to a special cache. During matches, one could see groupings of those not playing, obvious by their uniforms, groaning with every putt that slid just wide, hugging and jumping around at the flight of an exceptionally struck drive. There was this easy camaraderie among all the participants that added much to the goings-on.
After one match, I saw two groups of four, one from the US, the other the visitors, come together, exchanging high-fives and hugs as they strolled back to the clubhouse, intermingled, arm-in -arm. Supremely athletic young women, poised at what for some would be the end of their amateur careers, savoring the moment that the long hours of sweat and pain and hundreds of buckets of balls had brought them to.
I found myself thinking that I will soon be searching the leader boards for their names on the professional circuit, and pulling for them just a bit more.
In the grand scheme of golf, it was not a major event, although the planning and behind-the-scenes work done by the USGA was still a mammoth undertaking. There was no prize money, no endorsements, no big-name players. That is not what this was all about.
What we saw at St. Louis Country Club over that weekend was an unforgettable victory for the members of the USA team, a most memorable experience for the Great Britain and Ireland ladies. And an even bigger win for the future of women’s golf.
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