CURTIS CUP
Returnees Galdiano, Lee Bring Stability, Experience to USA Team June 5, 2018 | Scarsdale, N.Y. By Bill Fields

Andrea Lee (left) and Mariel Galdiano understand the Curtis Cup Match is unlike any other amateur competition. (USGA/Steven Gibbons)

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The seats on the trans-Atlantic flight back to the United States following the 2016 Curtis Cup Match in Ireland were comfortable, but the mood could have been more cheerful.

“The USGA and a lot of people had put a lot of effort into it,” said Mariel Galdiano. “It would have felt better going back with the trophy in our hands.”

The Americans lost to a formidable Great Britain & Ireland side at Dun Laoghaire Golf Club outside of Dublin, 11½ to 8½, thanks to a  special performance from Galdiano’s UCLA teammate Bronte Law, who became just the second player in Curtis Cup history to go 5-0-0 (Stacy Lewis, 2008 is the other).

“They were just amazing and Bronte was incredible,” said Andrea Lee, whose lone win in 2016 came in singles on Sunday (1-2-0). “She just dominated and we got outplayed.”

Law and fellow GB&I stalwart, Leona Maguire, have both turned professional.

While the Americans also have a relatively new squad, Galdiano and Lee provide some stability as the only returning members from 2016. Now two years older, the two are hoping for a different outcome when the biennial competition takes place this weekend at Quaker Ridge Golf Club. During an era when many talented players are turning professional sooner rather than later, multiple Curtis Cup appearances don’t happen as often as they once did.

One of the keys for GB&I in 2016 was that Law and Maguire each competed in three Curtis Cups, and the Americans fielded one of its youngest teams in the history of the Match.

Galdiano and Lee, each 19 and having just finished their sophomore years at UCLA and Stanford, respectively, are naturally extra motivated to win.

“Definitely,” said Lee, a semifinalist in the 2014 U.S. Women’s Amateur (she lost to 2018 Curtis Cup teammate and eventual champion Kristen Gillman) and runner-up in the 2016 U.S. Girls’ Junior. “Two years ago was a little bittersweet. We are playing on home soil and want to bring the Cup back. It’s going to be fun and exciting. I think we’ll be pumped up playing in New York on a tough course. Hopefully, Mariel and I can bring a bit of experience to the team. It’s going to be really fun, and I am looking forward to it.”

Seven of the eight USA players are in college, the exception being 15-year-old Lucy Li. All have played high-caliber golf under challenging conditions. Lee was one of four USA competitors to have played in last week’s U.S. Women’s Open at Shoal Creek.

“I don’t think they need much,” said Lee, of Hermosa Beach, Calif., when discussing  any mentoring responsibilities. “They’re all experienced players. It’s a very mature team. As long as we all get along and find the right pairings, we’ll be good to go.”

Sophia Schubert, the 2017 U.S. Women’s Amateur champion, believes the two returnees bring a lot to the side. “I think it’ll do a lot for us having them back,” Schubert said. “It sure can’t hurt. They have that experience, and experience always helps a lot.”

Galdiano, of Pearl City, Hawaii, said she has been anticipating being on a second Curtis Cup team immediately after the Americans came up short two years ago. She posted a 2-1-0 record, including a victory in singles..

““Not being able to get the job done the first time, I set a goal for myself to make a second team and win,” said Galdiano, who joins fellow Bruin Lilia Vu on the team. “I knew our team would have potential, and I’m hungry and excited to get out there.”

Having been through one Curtis Cup, Galdiano is well aware how the competition has a distinct vibe from individual or collegiate events. Not only are they playing for themselves, but also for their teammates and their country.  

“The atmosphere is different,” Galdiano said. “I hit the first tee shot at the last Curtis Cup. I didn’t realize until a day or two before, I was quite nervous. I hit a good drive, but there was a lot of excitement.”

Galdiano and Lee will attempt to channel their excitement and emotions over the three-day competition. The first two days feature three foursomes (alternate-shot) and three four-ball matches, with all eight players competing in singles matches on Sunday. The two Pacific-12 Conference rivals mentioned the possibility of partnering in the four-ball format.

“Our games are similar, and she inspires me to be a better player,” Galdiano said of Lee. “We’re pretty good friends and comfortable with each other.”

Bill Fields is a Connecticut-based freelance writer.

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