__MANCHESTER-BY-THE-SEA, MASS.—__Six is the magic number. Or the tragic number. It all depends on your point of view.
Six straight times now the United States has defeated Great Britain & Ireland in the Curtis Cup matches. Whether the number reaches seven will be decided this weekend with the 36th playing of the event at Essex County Club in Boston's northern suburbs.
Suffice it to say, the streak elicits a sense of pride or means absolutely nothing, again depending on your point of view.
For the American side, captain Noreen Mohler will tell you the fact no U.S. team has lost since 1996 is something she is aware of but isn't hung up on.
"Of course, you don't want to be the captain when the streak is broken," Mohler said during Thursday's pre-event press conference. "But these girls are used to [that kind of pressure]. They [know how to] deal with the elements, and they can deal with pressure."
Only Kimberly Kim returns from the victorious 2008 American team, which claimed a healthy 13-7 victory at The Old Course at St. Andrews. Yet Mohler has an experienced bunch when it comes to her other seven players competing for their country. Four have played for the U.S. in the Junior Solheim Cup.
"Going into the tournament all we're thinking about is kicking some butt out there," said reigning U.S. Women's Amateur and WAPL champion Jennifer Song. "We don't have the pressure to keep the streak going. But I told Noreen yesterday, 'We've got your back.' "
Just as confident, however, is the GB&I side, regardless of being on the short side of 26-6-3 overall record in the match. "History says they've done quite well but we've got a strong team here this week, and we're all winners," said GB&I team member Hannah Barwood. "No doubt we can do well."
Captain Mary McKenna competed in a GB&I record nine Curtis Cups during her playing career and was a participant in 1986 at Prairie Dunes CC when her team ended a then streak of 13 straight American victories. She hopes that having been a part of the only GB&I squad that has ever won the match on U.S. soil can help her convince her squad that it can end the current streak.
The GB&I side has been in the U.S. since June 1, allowing them ample time to adapt to the time change and get settled. "I think we feel very comfortable here," said McKenna, who held a practice/bonding session at nearby Longmeadow CC before arriving at Essex County Club last Monday. "We've acclimated and now we ready to get down to business."
McKenna's roster is nothing if not youthful. Five teenagers, including 15-year-old twins Leona and Lisa Maguire, the youngest participants for GB&I in the 78-year history of the event, are competing for the visitors this week. (For perspetive, the Maguires had just turned 1 the last time GB&I claimed the Curtis Cup.)
Whatever side manages to win the three-day event will be the one that best adapts to the crowned greens on this Donald Ross gem, among the distinguishing factors on what was the home course of __Harriot__and Margaret Curtis, the event's founders.
"It's similar to [courses] back home. I think that's really going to help," said Danielle McVeigh of Ireland. "It requires a lot of creativity which is exciting."
While both sides have spent the past few days trying to gain local knowledge, they also have been making sure not to expend too much energy too early in what amounts to a very long week of preparation followed by a quick three days of competition.
"I think the girls have done a good job of getting their games ready and pacing themselves as well," said Mohler. "I think they're ready to go."
But are they ready to keep the streak alive?
__Friday AM pairings
GB&I vs. USA
__9 a.m.—Sally Watson/Rachel Jennings vs. Jennifer Song/Jennifer Johnson
9:10—Hannah Barwood/Holly Clyburn vs. Alexis Thompson/Jessica Korda
9:20—Danielle McVeigh/Leona Maguire vs. Cydney Clanton/Stephanie Kono
For two of the eight U.S. players, the Curtis Cup marks the end of their amateur careers. USC sophomore Jennifer Song and Alexis Thompson, the 15-year-old sensation, will both be turning pro after the event.
Thompson makes her play-for-pay debut next week at the Shop-Rite LPGA Classic but insists that the change in her playing status won't be a distraction this week.
"We're not thinking about turning pro right now," Thompson said. "We just want to do our best out here and come out strong, do our best to win."
U.S. captain Noreen Mohler said that she got a message from 2008 American Solheim Cup captain Beth Daniel offering her good luck and a bit of advice on how to fill out her line-up.
"She just said be prepared, plan ahead and then go with the flow."