Manchester-by-the-Sea, Mass. – Apparently captain Noreen Mohler knew what she was doing when she assumed a what-me-worry posture Friday night after her USA team found itself trailing by one point to the upstart Great Britain & Ireland squad after the first day of the 36th Curtis Cup.
But it turns out she possesses a modicum of acting talent. She was a little worried. At least that was the implication on Saturday when she assessed the damage her eight charges had meted out to the bewildered visitors on an historic day at Essex County Club. “I feel much better now,” she said with a noticeable sigh of relief.
She should. The Americans didn’t lose a match on Day 2, going a perfect 6-0 in four-ball and foursomes (alternate shot) play to take a commanding 8½-3½ lead into Sunday’s eight closing singles matches. Team USA needs just a win and a halve out of eight matches for 10 points to retain the cup and two points to win outright for the seventh straight time dating back to 1998. It currently is the second-longest losing streak in the biennial competition’s history, which dates back to 1932.
“I’m delighted with our play today, but how can I not be? Everything was going our way,” said Mohler, trying not to smile too broadly. “It should be pointed out that there were a lot of close matches. There was a lot of good golf today, and both teams made birdies. I’m sure [GB&I] captain [Mary] McKenna said the same thing. But I was pleased that we came out ahead each time.”
That’s easy to do when you are seldom behind.
While the GB&I squad managed to keep things interesting as the skies steadily turned British Isles gray and gloomy with intermittent rain, a closer look at the matches shows that the Americans never lost control of the narrative.
In fact, the visitors barely could get a word in edgewise. They led for exactly four holes total – all day.
In the course of six matches, those tentative 1-up GB&I advantages came in one match in each session, meaning in four of the six matches the Americans never trailed.
The only time USA looked vulnerable was in the aftermath, when Tiffany Lua donned a pair of sandals and exposed her heels, which were covered in band-aids because of the huge blisters her new golf shoes had given her.
“It looks bad, but it doesn’t hurt,” she assured.
Undoubtedly, the GB&I squad felt a pain no one could see.
Folks who predicted a USA rout weren’t feeling very smug on Friday night, but looked like geniuses Saturday.
Mohler appeared to be the smartest person on the property, but she knew better.
“These girls know what it takes to play the golf they do, and they motivate themselves,” she said. “I just keep them well-fed.”
That may be true, but the Americans sure arrived hungry. The first four-ball pairing of Jessica Korda and Alexis Thompson birdied the first three holes they played. Jennifer Song birdied the first two holes paired with Cydney Clanton on the way to making nine on her own ball in a 3-and-2 victory over 15-year-old Irish twins Lisa and Leona Maguire.
“The Americans put a lot of pressure on us,” England’s Rachel Jennings said.
Can the GB& I team return the favor on Sunday? It will take a monumental effort.
“The scoreboard says we can still win, and that’s what we’ll try to do until the last putt drops,” Jennings said.
“We just have to start again tomorrow and see if we can’t find whatever we had the day before,” McKenna said. “We’ve got eight matches. It might be a bit of a miracle, but I think we’re capable. We’ll take seven.”
She spoke with an air of detachment and appeared nonplussed by the day’s events.
Indeed, Mohler can tell her that there really is no point in worrying.
Dave Shedloski is a freelance writer whose work has previously appeared on USGA websites.