Manchester-by-the-Sea, Mass. – Sometimes instinct is better than intellect.
As Alexis Thompson and Jessica Korda stood over a critical 18-foot par putt at Essex County Club’s 17th hole, neither teenager could decipher a correct read.
While the Friday morning foursomes (alternate shot) match was all square at the time, the American duo desperately needed to convert, especially since their Great Britain and Ireland counterparts had an 8-foot downhill birdie putt.
We were reading it and I had no idea how it broke, said the 17-year-old Korda. [Alexis] goes, ‘Me neither.’ I was like, ‘Just go with your gut, it’s usually right.’
Thompson, a 15-year-old from Coral Springs, Fla., chose to play aggressively and coolly rolled in the biggest putt of the match. And when England’s Holly Clyburn missed the birdie chance, the Americans had escaped.
That’s how the match ended – each side earning a half-point in what proved to be the theme of the Friday morning session at the 2010 Curtis Cup. All three matches ended all square with the teams deadlocked at 1½-1½ going into the three afternoon four-ball matches.
For the two young Americans, the putt on 17 gave them a sense of relief. It exorcised the demons from a disastrous 14th-green four-putt that handed GB&I the hole and squared the match for good.
Oh my God, that was pathetic, said Thompson. That was not very good. We just had to forget about that.
Amnesia is actually good in foursomes. To alleviate any tension, Korda and Thompson spent the entire match smiling and talking to each other. The two long-hitting Floridians felt they were an ideal pairing for this format because of their similar games. They had been successful as a duo in four-ball play at the Junior Solheim Cup last summer in Illinois, but this was their first foray into alternate shot.
Add a crowd of some 500 people and the palpable emotions of playing for your country and the intensity triples.
I think in alternate shot there’s a lot of pressure on you, said Korda. Just because you don’t want to disappoint your playing partner and you don’t want to disappoint yourself. You don’t want to say you’re sorry and I had to say, ‘sorry’ so many times.
Korda and Thompson got off to a solid start, grabbing a 1-up lead with a par at No. 3 and converting a 15-foot eagle at the par-5 fifth.
Everything pointed to a 3-up lead on No. 6 until Clyburn, playing with Hannah Barwood, rolled in a 9-foot par putt. A large roar went up from the GB&I fans, and it sparked the two 19-year-olds from England.
GB&I won holes nine and 10 with pars, the latter coming on another clutch Clyburn putt.
For me and Hannah, it just gave us a bit more confidence, said Clyburn. I holed a great one on 10 to get us all square. So it was a great match.
Course architect Donald Ross probably had a chuckle on what transpired on holes 13 and 14. Each team took turns making a faux pas. At 13, Clyburn and Barwood watched greenside chip shots roll back to them and eventually they conceded the Americans’ 12-foot birdie putt.
Then came the USA’s four-putt at 14.
It was thank you to the Americans for the 14th hole, said Clyburn.
Holes 15 through 17 were halved with pars, including Thompson’s brilliant putt at 17.
At the severely sloped par-4 18th hole, Clyburn’s approach landed left of the green, but Barwood’s ensuing pitch stopped 3 feet from the flagstick. Korda set up Thompson with a 12-foot birdie putt. A slight push kept the ball from falling.
It wasn’t a mis-read, said Thompson. I pushed it enough to miss. Unbelievable.
Still, the two Americans were proud of the way they handled the pressure of their first Curtis Cup Match. And they were impressed by the atmosphere.
I heard a lot of people came out to watch this event, said Thompson, whose older brother, Nicholas, was on the 2005 USA Walker Cup Team. There was a lot of people and they just walk down the fairway with you. It’s pretty cool. It makes it a great experience.
David Shefter is a USGA communications staff writer. E-mail him with questions or comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.