No wind, big lead for U.S.
BANDON, ORE.—Strange occurrences seemed to be the norm Saturday at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort as the 34th Curtis Cup matches began on the picturesque Pacific Dunes course. After a week’s worth of 30 mile-per-hour gusts, there was hardly any wind to speak of. And after years of American foursomes futility, the U.S. team managed to sweep the three morning alternate-shot matches, confounding their Great Britain and Ireland foes en route to a lopsided 7-2 lead by day’s end.
“I am just in awe of my team,” said U.S. captain Carol Semple Thompson, a group that equaled the second-largest first-day advantage in the competition’s 74-year history. “I think that they played great golf today, and I am shocked that we’re ahead 7-2. But thrilled.”
Out leading the charge for the U.S. side was Paige Mackenzie, a recent University of Washington graduate who shot the equivalent of four under par in her 5-and-4 singles’ victory over Melissa Reid after teaming with Amanda Blumenherst to post a 5-and-4 triumph in foursomes a few hours earlier. On the day, Mackenzie missed just one fairway while joining Taylor Leon and Jane Park in earning two points.
“It was good to get off to a nice start with Amanda,” Mackenzie said. “And this afternoon I just played really well.”
With nine matches remaining Sunday—three morning foursomes and six afternoon singles—the U.S. needs to win just two to retain the Cup it has won every year since 1998 and 2½ points to win it outright.
During a week that started with much debate on whether the Americans had squandered a home-course advantage by playing the biennial event on links-style 6,217-yard, par-71 course, Mother Nature stepped in and provided her own answer to the question. Bright sun and calm conditions greeted players on the first tee, playing into the hands of the U.S. side and confusing their GB&I competitors
“The no-wind definitely caught us with regards to clubbing,” said GB&I captain Ada O’Sullivan, who only a day earlier confidently suggested her team felt right at home on the southwest coast of Oregon. “We made a lot of judgment errors. We had been practicing all week … a lot of punch shots thinking that the wind was going to get up.”
Forecasts for Sunday look to be similar with sunny skies and light breezes.
More unpredictable, though, than the benign breezes was the Americans sudden disposition toward foursomes. In recent years, the format had been about as appealing to U.S. squads as a plate of brussel sprouts (losing five of six matches at Formby in 2004) and left an equally bad taste in their mouths. So it was then that Thompson force-fed the format to her players during their pre-event visit to Bandon earlier this month, having them play it in four of five practice rounds to become more comfortable with the alternate-shot competition.
Even so, when Park and Leon rallied to win the morning's last match 1 up and give the U.S. all three points, no one was more surprised than Thompson herself. “I’m sure that [the GB&I players] were rattled by that,” she said. “We have almost always been thrilled if we were 1½ to 1½ after the morning foursomes.”
“We didn’t play to our full potential,” noted a disappointed O’Sullivan, searching for a way to rally her players. “They owe it to themselves to actually reach their full potential.”
NOTES: The GB&I's lone bright spot turned out to be Breanne Loucks, an 18-year-old from Wrexham, Wales, who defeated NCAA national player of the year Amanda Blumenherst 5 and 4 in their afternoon singles' match. After going 1 up on the fourth hole with a par, Loucks proceded to win the sixth with a birdie, and the seventh, eighth and ninth with pars to make the turn 5 up. "The main thing was to just stick to your game plan and go out there and just knuckle down and keep it straight down the fairway, on the green and two putt," said Loucks, who did not play in the morning foursomes but will be paired with Melissa Reid in Sunday morning's second alternate shot match. "So that's what I did."