Can GB&I Dare To Dream?
Elaine Ratcliffe was right to sound a note of caution after Great Britain & Ireland ended the opening day of the 41st Curtis Cup ahead of a strong American team. While the GB&I captain exulted in her team winning the opening foursomes 2 ½–½ and the afternoon fourballs 2–1 to surge into a 4 ½ – 1 ½ lead, she was realistic enough to tell her team this match has a long way to go.
“I'm just thrilled, thrilled with the result. Thrilled that they have played the golf that I know they can play. I loved the fact that they have had such a great time doing it.
“You don't win the Curtis Cup on day one. We have got to continue that golf and continue that momentum because for sure the American team will come back.”
Scotland’s Hannah Darling (pictured above left with England's Annabell Fuller), who was unbeaten in the opening two sessions with one and half points, also knows this match has a long way to go.
“It gives us huge confidence," Darling said. "Obviously we still need to go and just follow it up tomorrow and it's not over until the end, I guess. But, yeah, it really helps and it gives us more momentum going into tomorrow.”
Note the intangible Darling and Ratcliffe cited which has settled so many international golf matches, whether it be Curtis, Walker, Solheim or Ryder Cups: momentum.
As we’ve seen from previous matches, that intangible can carry teams through to victory. As I wrote yesterday, the 2012 Curtis Cup at Nairn looked like a foregone conclusion after the first three sessions. A stronger U.S. team won every session to build up a 6–3 lead. However, GB&I won the Saturday afternoon fourballs 2 ½ – ½ to trail the U.S. by just a point, 5 ½ – 6 ½, heading into the crucial singles session. That momentum carried the home team to a first victory since 1996, with GB&I winning the singles 5-3.
World number one Rose Zhang, who also recorded one and a half points from a possible two yesterday, spoke for her team when she said:
“Team USA always has high hopes and we always have really good team spirit so coming into tomorrow everyone's going to try to work hard to play even better and we'll make a good come back tomorrow.”
As I also wrote yesterday, this U.S. team is far stronger on paper than the GB&I side. No one should be in any doubt the Americans will make a match of this.
“They played really well, the other team just played a little bit better today,” U.S. captain Sarah Ingram said. “But we have a long way to go, a lot of points out there to be had and I know that they're going to come back fighting really strong.”
There’s another intangible at play this week: home course advantage. It’s the great leveller for GB&I teams. No U.S. Curtis Cup team has won away from home since the 2008 match at St Andrews, when Carol Semple Thompson captained the American team.
As we’ve seen in the Walker Cup, American teams struggle with links golf, just as GB&I players find the ultra-quick, contoured greens of American courses hard to deal with. The links of Conwy can be GB&I’s ninth player over the next two days to defeat a much stronger, on paper anyway, U.S. team.
But remember, Curtis Cups aren’t played on paper. The team that wins this week will be the one that holes more putts.
Can GB&I continue to do that and dare to dream of Curtis Cup glory?
#JustSaying: “A good player who is a great putter is a match for any golfer. A great hitter who cannot putt is a match for no one.” Ben Sayers
Photograph courtesy of the R&A