Two years ago, the Great Britain and Ireland Curtis Cup Team visited Atlanta Athletic Club en route to the Match at St. Louis (Mo.) Country Club. The team wanted to get acclimated to the heat and humidity before the three-day biennial competition.
Martha Kirouac, the 2004 USA Curtis Cup captain and recently retired member of the USGA Women’s Committee, heard the team was looking to play alongside some junior golfers. The longtime Georgia resident immediately contacted one of her state’s elite players, Bailey Tardy, an AAC member.
“I had never even heard of the Curtis Cup,” said Tardy.
Tardy accepted the invitation. Little did she know that two years later, she’d be one of those players.
“My [swing] coach [Chan Reeves] said, that is going to be you in two years,” said Tardy. “I knew I was going to be better, but I didn’t know I was going to have this kind of success so early on.”
Playing the club’s par-3 course, which doesn’t have a hole longer than 130 yards, Tardy absorbed everything the GB&I players did, especially their short games. Just being around those eight talented players inspired and drove her.
In February, Tardy, 19, of Peachtree Corners, Ga., was named to the 2016 USA Curtis Cup Team. This weekend at Dun Laoghaire Golf Club south of Dublin, she will be competing against three players from the 2014 GB&I side – Bronte Law, Leona Maguire and Charlotte Thomas – whom she befriended at AAC.
“I wanted to make that a goal of mine, whether that was in two years or four years, I wanted to play on the American team for the Curtis Cup,” said Tardy. “I am so honored to be on this team.”
That 2014 summer proved to be a pivotal one in Tardy’s growth as a player. She qualified for the U.S. Women’s Open at Pinehurst Resort & Country Club, then returned to the venue a year later and won the prestigious North & South Women’s Amateur. This past fall, she claimed the Windy City Collegiate, in just her fourth college start. And she shared medalist honors in early May with Law, a UCLA All-America player and three-time Curtis Cup competitor, in the NCAA Bryan (Texas) Regional.
That came before she was the medalist at her U.S. Women’s Open qualifier in Butler, Pa., the same site where she qualified in 2014. Tardy’s game appears to be rounding into form at the right time.
“I was back at my course (AAC) and people have all been congratulating me for qualifying for the [Women’s] Open,” said Tardy, “and I’m thinking playing in the Curtis Cup is bigger than playing in the Open. I am representing my country and I’m here playing for my country. At the U.S. Open, there’s all these people playing from different countries, but it’s not on a team.”
Tardy has embraced the team aspect of the competition. Prior to college, she represented the East in the Wyndham Cup, a three-day competition pitting the country’s top juniors in a format similar to the Curtis Cup. Tardy and USA Curtis Cup competitor Sierra Brooks from Sorrento, Fla., were teammates, and they were pitted against fellow Curtis Cup players Bethany Wu, Andrea Lee and Hannah O’Sullivan.
The Curtis Cup gives Tardy the chance to finally join forces with her usual rivals. A couple of days ago, the team played historic Portmarnock Golf Club before getting themselves acclimated to Dun Laoghaire the past couple of days.
The final practice round comes on Thursday before the flag-raising ceremony. The competition begins on Friday with three foursomes (alternate-shot) matches followed by three four-ball matchups. The format repeats on Saturday before the eight singles matches on Sunday.
“It’s fun to bond as a team,” said Tardy.
To prepare for the experience, Tardy reached out to 2013 U.S. Women’s Amateur champion Emma Talley, who earned the decisive point for the USA in the 2014 Match.
“Emma was like just go out and have fun,” said Tardy. “It’s a blast. You are going to love it. Absorb the experience.”
It’s an experience that was first envisioned two years ago on a hot day in Atlanta.
David Shefter is a senior staff writer for the USGA. Email him at email@example.com,