Nairn, Scotland – When the 37th Curtis Cup Match begins in earnest on Friday morning, the United States of America Team will have already become quite familiar with The Nairn Golf Club and the vagaries of the region’s fickle weather.
The eight-player American squad, which is seeking an eighth consecutive USA victory in the Match, will have played no fewer than 81 holes on the 125-year-old course designed by Old Tom Morris, James Braid and Ben Sayers. The potential of playing an additional 90 holes over the weekend.
"We've been playing a lot, which I think is important, because you have to get out there on the course and get comfortable," said Lindy Duncan, 21, of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., the highest ranked American (No. 8) in the Women’s World Amateur Golf Ranking and one of seven USA players with no prior playing experience in Europe.
This region is generally known for its tempestuous rain and wind, but the Americans have been treated to a buffet of varied conditions.
Tuesday's morning round, for example, "was one of those beautiful mornings," said USA Captain Pat Cornett. "Relatively calm, a little brisk. Then in the afternoon, the wind came up and it was a different course. It was like night and day.
"I actually love it for the girls to see how the course plays in different conditions," Cornett said. "I couldn't have asked for a wider range [of weather] here … except for the downpour, but we're going to keep that off."
Amy Anderson, 19, of Oxbow, N.D., has never played a venue quite like Nairn, but the 2009 U.S. Girls’ Junior champion has quickly gained an appreciation for the type of game required of links golf.
“It’s different, but I really do like it,” said Anderson. “I like the different shots you have to hit. The only [links] golf I know is from watching the British Open and you’re expecting it to be impossible. But it’s really fair. You hit a great shot and you’re rewarded, bad shots not so much. That’s the way golf should be.”
While Duncan thinks her American teammates have settled into a comfort zone this week, she feels the unpredictable nature of the weather could prove advantageous come Sunday.
“It's huge because we have been making notes of which clubs we've been hitting in certain conditions,” Duncan said. “Today we didn't have much wind, but we got a little bit of a rain at the end. We needed to get used to that because I think there will be more of that to come.
“But playing every day in different conditions just makes it a little tougher, so you're not relaxed out there. That's good because we don't want to get relaxed out there at any time.”
The Americans hold a 27-6-3 record, including seven successive wins – each of the last three matches by no fewer than five points – but the USA is not exuding any sense of entitlement or overconfidence.
One reason is that the Great Britain and Ireland Team is relatively the USA’s equal, based off the World Amateur Ranking. Charley Hull, 16, of England, is the highest ranked player (No. 4) on either side, and five GB&I players are ranked among the top 32.
GB&I also has three holdovers from the 2010 Match at Essex County Club in Manchester-by-the-Sea, Mass.: Pamela Pretswell, Leona Maguire and Holly Clyburn, while just Tiffany Lua returns for the USA.
Cornett will do her best to keep complacency out of the team room. A two-time Curtis Cup participant, Cornett played on a winning side in 1978, but tasted defeat 10 years later in Sandwich, England.
“What I have been trying to instill in the girls is a couple of facts,” Cornett said. “The first is the changing conditions, and how the course can change in front of their eyes. And they got a flavor of that the first couple of days here and that's been important.
"The second is the amazing love in this part of the country for the game of golf and the crowds that are going to come out. I think they will appreciate the golf that is going to be played, but the crowds will certainly be partisan. So I think it's important for my team to prepare mentally for the fact the crowds out here will be rooting against them.”
Stuart Hall is a North Carolina-based freelance writer whose work has previously appeared on the USGA’s championship websites.