ST. LOUIS – If preparing for the challenges of the C.B. Macdonald-designed St. Louis Country Club isn’t hard enough, three USA Curtis Cup Team competitors are still focused on their studies.
Each day, Alison Lee, Erynne Lee and Mariah Stackhouse have gone from reading greens to reading textbooks.
“We’re juggling both,” said Erynne Lee, a junior at UCLA. “I just want to work on my golf game. I’d rather study the slopes of the greens.”
UCLA and Stanford are still on the quarters system, so while most schools on the traditional semester system finish in early May, the academic year at UCLA and Stanford goes into early June.
Alison Lee, a UCLA freshman from Valencia, Calif., still has five pages of an essay to finish for her Scandanavia class. And her last two finals – one in linguistics and another in ethnomusicology – are set for early next week. Following her final practice round on Thursday morning, she was back at her computer in the team room trying to finish her paper.
“It’s tough working on school when you have the Curtis Cup,” said Alison Lee, currently No. 2 in the Women’s World Amateur Golf Ranking™.
Erynne Lee, of Silverdale, Wash., also has two finals remaining in a pair of advanced psychology classes. She recently finished her final essay in an advanced Scandanavia class. So between team dinners and practice, she is doing her best to prepare for not only one of the biggest team amateur competitions, but also her academics.
“Usually during this time, we’re prepping and studying hardcore,” said Erynne Lee, a psychology major who plans to graduate next spring.
Stackhouse, a Stanford sophomore from Riverdale, Ga., was up until 4 a.m. earlier this week finishing an eight-page paper for her History 144 class. The class deals with the history of women in science, math and technology.
After play on Friday, Stackhouse will take a psychology exam proctored by Liz Carl of the USGA Rules and Competitions staff, who is serving as the team manager for the USA Team. The class dealt with personality and effective science. Then two days after the Curtis Cup, Stackhouse will be back on campus to take her media psychology exam.
“I’m not even thinking about that one until this is over,” Stackhouse said. “I have to put it in perspective. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, so my focus is on [the Curtis Cup] this week. Coming into this quarter, I said this comes first. It comes before everything. This is why I’m here. I’m not going to give 90 percent to the team. I want to give 100 percent.”
To prepare for the unfamiliar hot and humid conditions expected in St. Louis this week, the Great Britain & Ireland Team spent a few days in Atlanta last week.
Atlanta’s temperatures and humidity were similar to what is expected this week in St. Louis, including a thunderstorm that rolled through on the final day.
“Prior to that, it had been very hot and humid,” said GB&I captain Tegwen Matthews, who guided her side to victory two years ago at The Nairn (Scotland) Golf Club, ending a seven-match drought to the USA. “And all of a sudden, whoosh. It was good grounding to what you can expect even here.”
The GB&I players also got into the competitive spirit with matches against local juniors and some top male members of Atlanta Athletic Club, site of this year’s U.S. Amateur. On Day 2, they faced the juniors on the par-3 course before playing 36 holes against the male members.
“It was really good … and really tough as well,” said Annabel Dimmock, 17, of England, and GB&I’s youngest player. “They actually had really good players. I played like an ex-pro and he was really good to play with. It was like a pressure match. I thought it was good preparation.”
The USA Team played a similar foursomes (alternate-shot) round against eight top male players from St. Louis on the final day of its practice session at St. Louis C.C., which ended in a 2-2 tie.
When Matthews competed in the Curtis Cup in the 1970s, the captain made out the lineup and the players went along with it, no questions asked.
“You never said boo to a goose in my day,” said Matthews, who played on four GB&I Teams (1974, 1976, 1978 and 1980). “You did as you were told.”
But now in her second consecutive stint as captain, Matthews is giving her team much more of a voice for foursomes and four-ball pairings.
Matthews sees a difference in today’s competitors, especially from a confidence standpoint.
“I think we respect each other, too,” said Stephanie Meadow, of Northern Ireland, one of two returning players from the victorious 2012 team. “We respect each other as great players, and it’s not like, ‘Oh, I don’t want to be with her.’”
Added Dimmock: “There’s no one on the team that you would be like, ‘No, I don’t want to be with them.’ Everyone is a good player here.”
The toughest part for Matthews is who to sit in each of the four sessions prior to singles on Sunday. Three four-ball and three foursomes matches will be contested each of the first two days.
“It’s actually totally refreshing to me to have a team as brilliant as this that we could have that open conversation,” said Matthews. “That no one was afraid to say what they felt or what they were more comfortable with. The toughest decision I had was who not to play.”
Odds And Ends
Former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, the honorary chairman for the 2014 Curtis Cup Match, was the guest speaker at the Flag-Raising Ceremony…USA competitor Ally McDonald, of Fulton, Miss., received a baseball from Kansas City Royals infielder Mike Moustakas at Monday night’s baseball game against the Cardinals at Busch Stadium right before Team USA captain Ellen Port and Matthews threw out ceremonial first pitches. Moustakas flipped the ball to McDonald and she was going to get him to sign it, but the game was about to start. “The guy [on the Royals bench] is like, ‘Get her out of here,’” said Port. McDonald said Moustakas was making a move to come out of the dugout before being ushered back by the team … To get her team better acquainted with the Curtis sisters and the Match’s history, Port created a PowerPoint presentation for her players. Few knew of Margaret and Harriot Curtis prior to being selected and now they understand the history of the competition ... Every two years a reunion takes place at the Curtis Cup, where past competitors have a chance to renew friendships and make new ones. Many Curtis Cup alums have come to St. Louis C.C. to take in the Match, enjoy the dinner parties and even play some golf. That group included 12-time competitor Carol Semple Thompson, Robin Burke, Courtney Trimble, Jane (Bastanchury) Booth, Kellee Booth, Robin Weiss Donnelley and the two past USA captains, Pat Cornett (2012) and Noreen Mohler (2010).
David Shefter is a senior staff writer with the USGA. Email him at email@example.com.