Great Britain & Ireland Left To Ponder Loss
By Alex Miceli
Bandon, Ore. – Miscalculation, mistake or bad luck? That is what Great Britain & Ireland captain Ada O’Sullivan will struggle with in the following days and weeks after her team was soundly defeated by a more talented United States team, 11½ to 6½, in the 34th Curtis Cup Match at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort.
Starting the week, the USA was riding a winning streak of 24-6-3, which included victories in the last four matches, dating back to 1998 at The Minikahda Club in Minneapolis. In each of those last four matches the USA had scored at least 10 points, including the 2004 Match at Formby Golf Club, when the USA team lost all three foursomes matches on the first day to go 3 down, but rallied to win 10 of the remaining 15 points to retain the Cup.
That win at Formby was historic in that six times a team started the matches with a 3-up lead - 1932, 1954, 1962, 1986, 2002 and 2004. Each time that team went on to win the Curtis Cup. That changed at Formby, and that was what haunted O’Sullivan and the GB&I team as they came to American shores.
“It did take me a long time to get over Formby,” O’Sullivan said before these matches. “Basically I think we felt that from the players that we had, that we should win at Formby. It wasn't ever felt we were going to win easily, but we felt we should have won. Particularly when we won five out of six foursomes. But to win three out of 12 singles was a disaster. That's the only way I could describe it.”
Now O’Sullivan has to ponder a different type of disaster, losing the first three foursomes matches on Saturday and following that up by dropping four out of six singles matches to end the first day down, 7-2.
Reasons abound why her team played so poorly on Saturday. The wind, which O’Sullivan had counted on when putting her team together, never materialized. The pairings she used on Saturday just didn’t jell, leading her to change two of the three pairings for Sunday’s foursomes, which eventually won 2½ points. But the biggest differences may have been her team’s inability to deal with the changing weather conditions of Bandon Dunes as well as the fact that the USA team was just stronger top to bottom than the GB&I squad.
“We were simply outclassed and outplayed this afternoon,” said O’Sullivan Saturday night. “This morning was a big disappointment. Everything, the stillness of the morning, the no wind definitely caught us with regards to the clubbing.”
It was clearly never the plan to lose many, if any, points in foursomes. Her team at Formby was 5-1 in foursomes, so O’Sullivan had confidence that she had found a good formula. But when it didn’t work, O’Sullivan was put behind the proverbial eight-ball, having to mix and match, trying not only to find three strong foursomes pairings, but to pull together six singles players who could capitalize on the 2½-½ foursomes success Sunday morning. In that effort she could only find Breanne Loucks, an 18-year-old Welsh girl who was likely one of the final additions to a team that was heavily weighted toward Ireland and England players and devoid of any Scots.
O’Sullivan’s confidence in Loucks was lukewarm at best in the early going, as she didn’t have her in the Saturday morning foursomes. Only by necessity did she put her in the singles, pulling out 26-year-old Claire Coughlan.
After going undefeated at the 2004 Curtis Cup Match, Coughlan was a disappointment at the Vagliano Trophy last year in France, winning only one-half point in four matches. Her play on Saturday morning sealed her fate as she and partner Melissa Reid lost the last two holes with bogeys to lose their foursomes match, 1 up, to a USA team that was behind most of the day.
“Some asked me the turning point,” O’Sullivan said Saturday night. “I think one of the big ones was our third foursomes match. If that had been a 2-1, I think that would have put it into perspective on everything. But at one stage it was looking we might even get one and a half.”
While the GB&I team put a stronger showing on in Sunday’s second day, winning 4½ points, it still worth noting that the team likely never had the firepower to tackle the American squad. And when the great equalizer, the wind, never really visited the Oregon shores, O’Sullivan’s plans went up in smoke.
“You have to take your hat off to them,” O’Sullivan said of the USA squad. “They outclassed us again this afternoon over the finishing holes. At the same time we knew going out if we could try and put some points on the board early, we were hoping for big wins early, we didn't come off with them. But they are to be complemented on a fantastic win. Martina (Gillen) played well as did Breanne. Three points out of three is great for your first Curtis Cup. But no, it just didn't happen for us this afternoon. As simple as that. At one stage it was looking good, but after that it just turned around."
O’Sullivan put together a squad that she believed could play links golf better than an American squad use to hitting the ball high as is the custom in the United States. In hindsight, could the GB&I team been stronger if not so focused on links type players and hedging its bets on calmer conditions?
“The player's ability to have a good short game, which is what's really needed to play links,” said O’Sullivan of what was part of her criteria in putting a team together. “Their ability to get up and down from difficult situations, good bunker play. And I say all these here have that, but that was part of the selection process. We weren't looking for people with big carries off the tee. Because when you come to links golf courses it's not necessarily big carries off the tee, it's somebody good around the greens.”
With no wind to speak of, the USA team was consistently longer off the tee than the GB&I players, putting them at a disadvantage early on almost every hole and giving the Americans a dominant position, from which they capitalized on seemingly at will, especially in singles.
Last year in France, the GB&I team won the Vagilano Trophy, 13 to 11, over Europe. Only Tricia Mangan, Gillen and Coughlan were part of that team with Tara Delaney, Naomi Edwards and Reid as alternates. Three of the big point-getters from that team, Sophia Walker with four and Kerry Smith and Felicity Johnson each with three, were not part of O’Sullivan’s plan for this team.
Alex Miceli is a freelance writer whose work has appeared previously on www.curtiscup.org.
Curtis Cup Match
PAR AND YARDAGE The Pacific Dunes Course at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort is set up at 6,217/6,221 yards and par is 36-3571.
GOLF COURSE ARCHITECT Tom Doak designed Bandon Dunes Pacific Dunes Course, which opened in 2001.
BANDON DUNES GOLF RESORT (PACIFIC DUNES COURSE) HOLE-BY-HOLE: Total: 6,217/6,221 yards, par 71
SCHEDULE OF PLAY On Saturday, July 29, and Sunday, July 30, there will be three foursomes matches (18 holes each) each morning and six singles matches (18 holes each) each afternoon.
WHAT IS THE CURTIS CUP MATCH? The Curtis Cup Match is contested by women amateur golfers, one team from the United States of America (USA) and one team from England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales (GB&I). The teams consist of not more than eight players and a captain. The Match is conducted every two years, alternately in the United States and Great Britain/Ireland.
THE FOURSOME Foursomes is a match where two players compete against two other players in alternate shot format, with each side playing just one ball.
SCORING A victory in each match scores one point. In the event a match goes 18 holes without a decision, one-half point is awarded to each side.
OPENING AND CLOSING CEREMONIES The flag raising ceremony will be held at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort at 6 p.m. Friday (PDT). The closing ceremony will be held immediately following play Sunday. Both events are open to the public.
TELEVISION COVERAGE The Golf Channel will air two hours of Curtis Cup coverage, from 4 to 6 p.m. PDT each day.
ADMISSION Admission is free of charge and spectators are encouraged to attend.