CURTIS CUP
Birdie Barrage Leads To Four-Ball Sweep June 11, 2010 By David Shefter, USGA

Stephanie Kono had plenty to smile about Saturday morning, producing a 2-up four-ball victory with partner and fellow Hawaiian Kimberly Kim to give the USA a sweep of the three matches. (John Mummert/USGA)
Manchester-by-the-Sea, Mass – Noreen Mohler did not need to pull out any Knute Rockne win-on- for-the-Gipper speeches Friday night in the USA Curtis Cup Team room.

No inspirational talks or famous quotes. Past players and sports psychologists weren’t contacted.

Panic simply isn’t part of the lexicon of these young and talented amateurs.

We didn’t even have time to talk, said Mohler. I told them absolutely nothing last night. We went home, ate and went to bed.

Despite a one-point deficit to Great Britain and Ireland – the first time the USA had trailed after the first day in 14 years – the Americans hadn’t lost their confidence. Perhaps it was more of a wake-up call that the visitors had jumped out early.

But as 17-year-old Jessica Korda put it, We hit good shots [on Friday]. We just needed to make more putts.

On Saturday morning, the Americans produced a lot of red on the scoreboards and scorecards. By winning all three four-ball matches, the USA took a 5½-3½ lead into the three afternoon foursomes (alternate shot) matches.

I think we were a little tentative on the greens yesterday and I think we had first-day jitters, said Mohler. I took each individual pairing aside this morning and said we’re going to be different people today. The greens are going to be our friends, and I think they were today.

Alexis Thompson, paired for a second time with fellow Floridian Korda, opened with three consecutive birdies and converted six in 17 holes as the tandem defeated Danielle McVeigh and Pamela Pretswell, 2 and 1.

Jennifer Song, who lost a four-ball match Friday with Kimberly Kim, went even better, making a remarkable nine birdies in 16 holes as the 20-year-old from Ann Arbor, Mich., and Cydney Clanton registered a 3-and-2 win over 15-year-old Irish twins Leona and Lisa Maguire.

The remarkably focused Song hadn’t realized her accomplishment until told by a reporter.

Really? said Song. I guess. I’ve not made that many in a round of golf [before].  Today we were very solid. We hit a lot of fairways and greens.

For the bystander, it might have appeared Clanton was simply a prop for Song’s performance. But Song said the Concord, N.C., resident and rising senior at Auburn University played an integral role in her success.

People wouldn’t understand how much help she did for me, said Song, who plans to turn professional after the Match. When somebody on your team confirms a par, you can putt freely. All you need to worry about is getting your line right and being a little more aggressive than usual. That’s exactly what we did. When I had trouble finding the line, I took Cydney’s advice.

Seeing early American red certainly provided positive fodder, especially for the anchor pair of Stephanie Kono and Kimberly Kim. The two grew up playing junior golf against each other in Hawaii and seemed at ease all day, despite being the only American tandem to face a deficit in the session.

Kim, the only USA player with previous Curtis Cup experience, likes things to be light-hearted on the course and Kono provided that comfort zone.

But when Sally Watson chipped in for birdie at 12 and Rachel Jennings stuffed an approach at 13 for a birdie, GB&I gave Kono and Kim some discomfort.

We just tried to play our game … turn the momentum around, said Kono, who will be a junior at UCLA in the fall.

Kim answered with a 5-foot birdie at 15 and Kono added an 8-foot birdie at 17 for a 1-up lead.

It was breaking a lot, said Kono. It was definitely makeable. Luckily, it stayed on the line and it went in. it was amazing.

GB&I nearly pulled off a miracle half at 18 when Watson knocked an approach from extremely thick rough to within 10 feet. The Stanford University sophomore, however, failed to make the birdie and Kono’s birdie putt was conceded for a 2-up USA victory and sweep of the morning four-balls.

We were definitely motivated after yesterday, said Kono. We knew today was our day to make putts.

David Shefter is a USGA communications staff writer. E-mail him with questions or comments at dshefter@usga.org.