History of the Curtis Cup Match
Officially named “The Women’s International Cup,” the cup for the Curtis Cup Match was offically presented in 1932 by Harriot and Margaret Curtis, sisters who won the U.S. Women’s Amateur four times between them. The cup, a silver bowl of Paul Revere design, is inscribed, “To stimulate friendly rivalry among the women golfers of many lands.” The cup was first presented in 1927 to give momentum to the competition, but play didn’t begin until 1932, largely because of financial reasons.
As beloved as the Curtis Cup Match is among those who have battled for it, no other USGA competition has had such problems getting off the ground.
The Match has its origins in an informal match played in 1905. Frances Griscom, of Philadelphia, the 1900 U.S. Women’s Amateur Champion, suggested that it would be fun for a group to play in the British Ladies Open Amateur, at Cromer, England. Eight Americans made the trip to play, including Miss Griscom, Georgianna Bishop, the 1904 Women’s Amateur Champion, and Harriot and Margaret Curtis.
An informal match developed between the Americans and a team from Britain. Although the USA was soundly beaten, the exhilaration and goodwill established by their visit always stayed with the competitors, particularly with Margaret and Harriot Curtis.
Interest in an international match was revived at a 1924 meeting of the Women’s Eastern Golf Association and became a subject of discussion among the Association, the British Ladies’ Golf Union and the French Golf Union over the next five years. In 1927, the Curtis sisters gave the idea another push by donating a cup for an international match. Fanny Osgood, of Boston, was appointed to again take up the matter with the LGU. A match was tentatively planned for 1928, but financial obstacles made it impossible.
In 1928, the USGA Women’s Committee appointed a subcommittee to consider an international match, but the idea was stymied by the usual lack of money. In 1930, the great American amateur Glenna Collett took matters into her own hands and arranged for a group of her countrywomen to play in Great Britain.
In 1931, the LGU agreed to regular matches with the United States. The USGA then decided to finance the American team and administer the competition. The Curtis Cup was accepted that same year as the official trophy.
The series began the following year with the United States opposing Great Britain, with a proviso that France might join in whenever it was able to do so. While it was hoped that many nations would eventually join in the Match, the Curtis Cup has remained a two-sided competition.
The first Curtis Cup Match was played in 1932 at Wentworth Golf Club, in England. Marion Hollins captained the American team, which consisted of Mrs. Vare, Maureen Orcutt, Virginia Van Wie, Opal Hill, Helen Hicks, Leona Pressler Cheney, and Dorothy Higbie. The team representing Great Britain and Ireland was made up of Joyce Wethered, the famous English champion who also served as captain, Wanda Morgan, Enid Wilson, Molly Gourlay, Doris Park, Diana Fishwick, Elsie Corlett, and Mrs. J.B. Watson, The Americans prevailed, 51¼2 to 31¼.
Although the Americans dominated until recent years, the true meaning of the Curtis Cup Match has never been overshadowed by the results and the Match has always been regarded as a vehicle of international friendship and understanding.
The Match also has proved to be launching ground for future professional stardom. Those competitors include U.S. Women's Open champions JoAnne Gunderson Carner, Paula Creamer, Juli Inkster, Cristie Kerr, Hilary Lunke, Hollis Stacy and Michelle Wie as well as LPGA Tour stars Beth Daniel, Jessica Korda, Stacy Lewis, Nancy Lopez and Lexi Thompson.
World Golf Hall of Famer Carol Semple Thompson competed in a record-12 Curtis Cup Matches, while seven-time USGA champion Anne Sander was a member of eight USA teams.