__MANCHESTER-BY-THE-SEA, MASS.—__What a difference 24 hours makes.
Just when it appeared that Great Britain & Ireland was ready for the upset of the United States at the 36th Curtis Cup, captain Noreen Mohler's American side put on one of the most dominant performances in the event's 78-year history.
Having swept the three morning fourball matches, the U.S. claimed victory in all three afternoon foursomes matches, giving them a commanding 8.5-3.5 lead entering Sunday's singles play.
While this is just the second time the event has been contested over three days, never has any side ever swept an entire day's matches.
"A lot of people asked me what did I say to them last night to make them play so well this morning," Mohler noted after Saturday's play. "I said: 'Absolutely nothing.' We went home last night and we were so tired and hungry that we had dinner and went to bed and that was it. These girls know what it takes to play the golf that they do. And they motivate themselves. They don't really need me to do that for them.
"I just make sure they're fed."
How bad did it get for the GB&I side at Essex County Club? Counting all six matches played Saturday, GB&I led for a grand total of four holes out of the 99 played.
The funny thing was, it didn't look like it was going to end so badly for the GB&I side as light rain started to damped the afternoon session. Hannah Barwood and Holly Clyburn were 2 down to Jennifer Song and Stephanie Kono after nine holes, but won the 10th and 11th to square the second match. Up ahead Danielle McVeigh and Leona Maguire had cut the lead of Alexis Thompson and Jessica Korda to just 1 up after 12 holes. And behind, Sally Watson and Rachel Jennings were only 1 down to Tiffany Lua and Jennifer Johnson after 10 holes.
But it was the Americans who made the big plays down the stretch. The Thompson/Korda pair made birdies on the 15th and 17th holes to close out their match, 3 and 1. Similarly, Song/Kono had birdies on the 13th, 16th and 17th holes to also record a 3-and-1 victory. Meanwhile, Lua/Johnson merely made pars on the 14th, 15th and 16th holes, but were able to win all three to finish with a 3-and-2 triumph.
"We were just hit with a birdie blitz basically," said GB&I captain Mary McKenna. "At some stage of the match, there was a hope of coming through and we didn't."
Indeed, the U.S. made 22 birdies during the morning fourball sessions and seven more in the afternoon foursomes. That compared to GB&I's 15 morning and five afternoon birdies.
"I really felt like the girls were going to start making some putts today," Mohler said. "I felt like they were a little tentative on the greens yesterday."
To retain the cup, the Americans have to win just 1.5 points on Sunday. To win it outright for the seventh straight time, they must win only two of the eight singles matches. Conversely, GB&I needs to win seven of the eight to win the cup.
"We've got eight matches tomorrow," McKenna said. "Who knows? We're capable of taking the eight. It might be a little bit of a miracle. We'd take seven then."
Quietly, Alexis Thompson is having an impressive go of it as she concludes her amateur career this week. With her afternoon victory, she's now 3-0-1 for the week, winning twice while paired with fellow junior phenom Jessica Korda.
And then there was Jennifer Song, the reigning U.S. Women's Amateur and WAPL champion who is also turning pro next week. Song made an amazing nine birdies during her morning fourball match with Cydney Clanton and two (one conceeded) in her afternoon foursomes match with Kono.
"She was very focused this morning," said Mohler. "Her play yesterday was uncharacteristic of her and I think disappointed. But she didn't show that. She wasn't down last night. but she was the first one here this morning. I could tell she was in the zone this morning."
GB&I vs. U.S.
__11:30 a.m.—Danielle McVeigh vs. Jennifer Song
11:40—Sally Watson vs. Alexis Thompson
11:50—Rachel Jennings vs. Jennifer Johnson
12 p.m.—Lisa Maguire vs. Kimberley Kim
12:10—Hannah Barwood vs. Cydney Clanton
12:20—Leona Maguire vs. Tiffany Lua
12:30—Pamela Pretswell vs. Jessica Korda
12:40—Holly Clyburn vs. Stephanie Kono
GB&I vs. U.S.
__Alexis Thompson/Jessica Korda, USA defeats Danielle McVeigh/Leona Maguire, 3 and 1
Jennifer Song/Stephanie Kono, USA defeats Hannah Barwood/Holly Clyburn, 3 and 1
Tiffany Lua/Jennifer Johnson, USA, defeats Sally Watson/Rachel Jennings, 3 and 2
__USA 8.5, GB&I 3.5
GB&I vs. U.S.
__Alexis Thompson/Jessica Korda, USA, defeats Danielle McVeigh/Pamela Pretswell, 2 and 1
Jennifer Song/Cydney Clanton, USA, defeats Leona Maguire/Lisa Maguire, 3 and 2
Stephanie Kono/Kimberly Kim, USA, defeats Sally Watson/Rachel Jennings, 2 up
__USA 5.5, GB&I 3.5
GB&I vs. USA
__Danielle McVeigh/Pamela Pretswell, GB&I, defeats Jennifer Song/Kimberly Kim, 4 and 3
Alexis Thompson/Jennifer Johnson, USA, defeats Rachel Jennings/Leona Maguire, 3 and 2
Sally Watson/Lisa Maguire, GB&I, defeats Jessica Korda/Tiffany Lua, 1 up
__GB&I 3.5, USA 2.5
__Sally Watson/Rachel Jennings, GB&I vs. Jennifer Song/Jennifer Johnson, USA, All square
Hannah Barwood/Holly Clyburn, GB&I vs. Alexis Thompson/Jessica Korda, USA, All square
Danielle McVeigh/Leona Maguire, GB&I vs. Cydney Clanton/Stephanie Kono, USA, All square
GB&I 1.5, USA 1.5