Notebook: Team USA Competitors Finding Their Roles

Two-time U.S. Women's Open champion Meg Mallon, a veteran of international team competition, was on hand Friday to support the USA Team. (USGA/Steven Gibbons)
By David Shefter and Lisa D. Mickey
June 6, 2014

ST. LOUIS – Ellen Port didn’t offer any words of wisdom prior to the start of the 38th Curtis Cup Match at St. Louis Country Club. Instead, the Team USA captain left it up to her players – one in particular.

Mariah Stackhouse, a rising junior at Stanford University from Riverdale, Ga., has become one of the USA Team’s vocal leaders, and according to Port, when she speaks, everybody listens.

“Each person has a unique role on this team and that's Mariah's role,” said Port.

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Those words must have impacted Stackhouse’s teammates, because the USA raced out to a 5-1 advantage over Great Britain & Ireland on Friday. The USA swept the morning four-ball matches and went 1-0-2 in the afternoon foursomes (alternate shot).

Since gathering the team for a practice session in April, Port has quickly sorted out roles. She has gained a full understanding of the competitors’ personalities, and Stackhouse’s diplomatic presence stands out.

“Like Emma [Talley] says, Emma can say the same thing to Mariah, but it always comes out better when Mariah says it,” said Port of why she passed the motivational baton to Stackhouse. “So, that's what I said and that's how I feel. I could say something, and like I told TV, ‘Mariah for president’ afterward. Everybody said, ‘Mariah for president.’

“So I think each person is allowed to be who they are and I think the cool thing about this team is that they are very comfortable with who they are. They like each other and I think that showed out there.”

Welcome Back

World Golf Hall of Famer and two-time U.S. Women’s Amateur champion Beth Daniel recently ran into Barbara Barrow, a member of the USGA Women’s Committee and a past Team USA Curtis Cup competitor. Barrow told Daniel, who competed on the 1976 and 1978 Curtis Cup Teams, that the 2014 USA Team could use more support at this year’s Match.

Daniel, 57, looked at her schedule, which includes mostly events on the Legends Tour, and found an opening. So the Charleston, S.C., native arrived on Friday morning for the start of the biennial competition. While roaming the fairways, Daniel ran into a pair of past Curtis Cup teammates in Noreen Mohler (1978 team) and Carol Semple Thompson (1976 and 1978), as well as Great Britain & Ireland’s Mary McKenna, whom she beat in singles in 1978.

In her two Curtis Cup appearances, Daniel amassed an impressive 7-1-0 record, including a 4-0 mark in singles. Back then, the Match was a two-day affair with morning foursomes (alternate-shot) followed by singles matches in the afternoon.

“I have so many [memories], I just can’t name one,” said Daniel, who owns 33 LPGA Tour victories, including the 1990 LPGA Championship. “It’s about the camaraderie and everything else. The Curtis Cup is more of a friendly match.”

Daniel, who after turning professional played in eight Solheim Cups and captained the victorious 2009 U.S. side, said she learned a lot from her experiences in the Curtis Cup and Solheim Cup that enabled her to be a successful leader.

“It’s very, very similar,” she said. “You are just dealing with four more players. It’s very similar on who you sit out. You really have to know your players and when to play them and what formats to play them in.”

Meshing Rivals

Normally when Erynne Lee and Annie Park see each other, they are rivals, especially during college tournaments. In fact, one of the fiercest rivalries in the Pacific-12 Conference is the one between Los Angeles schools UCLA (Lee) and USC (Park). But this week, they are just Americans and the Trojans and Bruins have blended quite nicely.

In fact, they weren’t the only UCLA-USC combo to contribute points on Friday.

Kim (USC) teamed with Alison Lee (UCLA) for a 4-and-3 four-ball victory over Annabel Dimmock and Gemma Dryburgh. In the afternoon foursomes matches, Park and Erynne Lee produced a 3-and-1 victory, the lone full point the USA earned in the session.

“This week, there is no USC or UCLA,” said Park, the 2013 NCAA Division I individual champion. “We’ve been friends for so long. Erynne and I both have a very similar game. Alternate shot is basically like we’re one big, whole person.”

Added Erynne Lee: “It worked out pretty well. We just work well together, regardless that we are [college] rivals.”

Cheering Her Junior Solheim Players

Team USA had a special cheerleader in its gallery. Meg Mallon, a two-time U.S. Women’s Open champion and 18-time winner on the LPGA Tour, arrived at St. Louis Country Club to root on the Americans.

A member of eight U.S. Solheim Cup teams and captain of the 2013 U.S. Team, Mallon is known for her all-American appeal and fiery competitiveness, especially in international events. Mallon came to St. Louis to cheer for the players she captained on the 2011 U.S. Junior Solheim Cup Team that competed in Ireland.

“I’ve never been to a Curtis Cup and when I saw that five of my kids made the team, I had to come here,” said Mallon, who won the Women’s Open in 1991 and 2004. “I’m so glad I did.”

While Mallon never played in a Curtis Cup Match, she said the number of alumnae from both sides who have returned for the match this week is impressive.

“You can just see all the former Curtis Cup players who have come back to watch this and how much it means to them,” Mallon said. “These young players also can see those players from the past coming back to watch and support the teams.”

David Shefter is a senior staff writer with the USGA and can be reached at Lisa D. Mickey is a Florida-based freelance writer whose work has previously appeared on USGA websites.

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