Many amateurs base their whole year – or even two years – around the opportunity to represent their country in an international team competition, with the Walker Cup and Curtis Cups the frontrunners.
After the 2020 playing of the Curtis Cup was postponed because of the COVID-19 pandemic, two teams of the best female amateurs in U.S. and Great Britain & Ireland have landed at Conwy Golf Club in Wales for the latest matches.
The U.S. team includes the Nos. 1 and 2 amateurs in the world in Rose Zhang and Rachel Heck. Both players are headed to Stanford shortly after the conclusion of the Cup. On the GB&I side, three players are coming straight from making the cut at the AIG Women’s British Open, the final women’s major of the season: Louise Duncan, Annabell Fuller and Lauren Walsh.
Consider this your primer on all things Curtis Cup before the matches begin on Thursday Aug. 26.
No rest for the tour-bound
Duke's Gina Kim participates in the second round of the 2019 NCAA Women's National Golf Championship at the Blessings Golf Club on Saturday, May 18, 2019 in Fayetteville, Arkansas. (Tim Cowie/ Duke Athletics)
After 72 holes in the California desert, Gina Kim faced a long international flight to Wales. Winning the first stage of LPGA Q-School might make that airtime a little more palatable. Kim, a Duke senior, is not only safely through the first stage, but is through it with a medal. In a field of 340 tour hopefuls, Kim finished on top with a four-day score of 15-under 273. That was highlighted by closing rounds of 66-67. “The putts were not dropping in the beginning, but I knew this was a marathon not a sprint,” Kim said after the final round. “So, I just took it one hole at a time and stayed patient. After I made a bogey on No. 8, that’s when my putts started dropping, so I think staying calm and poised was really the key for me today.” The 21-year-old, No. 18 in the World Amateur Golf Rankings, hasn’t competed since winning the North & South Women’s Amateur in July – she skipped the U.S. Women’s Amateur in favor of Q-School. She played the U.S. Women’s open in June and was fifth individually at the NCAA Women’s Championship in May. Her biggest goal was to make the Curtis Cup team, and the North & South win served her well in that. “I was thinking about it even before the North & South,” she said after winning at Pinehurst. “I knew this tournament would really swing things in my favor if things go well. I think that was the No. 1 thing that was on my priority list. It’s every amateur golfer’s dream to make the Curtis cup or the Walker Cup. These tournaments are just so prestigious.” Kim brings a tough head-to-head record into these matches. Aside from the five matches she won at the North & South, she was 4-0 at the Arnold Palmer Cup this summer and a major factor in Duke’s 2019 NCAA title – winning two of three matches that week. As for the potential jet lag? Kim won’t be the only one on the U.S. team feeling it. Teammate Brooke Matthews finished T-10 and Allisen Corpuz was T-33
From major to matches
World, meet Louise Duncan, the 21-year-old who brings some recent success of her own to the GB&I side of things. Duncan earned her spot in last week’s AIG Women’s British Open by winning the R&A Women’s Amateur in June and then she finished in the top 10 at Carnoustie. Duncan was 7 under for the week, only five shots behind winner Anna Nordqvist, and should take a huge confidence boost from her success.
Louise Duncan of Scotland (a), reacts as she finishes her round at the 18th hole during Day Three of the AIG Women's Open at Carnoustie Golf Links on August 21, 2021 in Carnoustie, Scotland. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
“I feel a bit mind blown as if it's not actually happened yet,” she said in summing it all up. “So maybe take a couple weeks to sink in. Feel over the moon with how I played and how I handled it. Had a great time, and yeah, really happy with how I played the past four days.” Asked if the matches would feel flat after a week at a women’s major, Duncan said she didn’t expect it. “There will be fans down there and hopefully they are all rooting for us,” she said. “I think the team environment will be something different from this week. But something good.”
Inspiration goes both ways for the captain
A three-time U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur champion herself, U.S. Curtis Cup captain Sarah Ingram is something of an inspiration to the next generation. But she’s inspired by them too, so much so that she resurrected her amateur career. Ingram appeared in three Curtis Cup matches. Interestingly, she owns a 2-1 record in singles with her lone defeat coming to current GB&I captain Elaine Ratcliffe in 1996 by a 3-and-1 margin. Ratcliffe, the Ladies European Tour’s Rookie of the Year in 1999, regained her amateur status in 2008. Recently, Ingram’s competitive experience had dried up. It took some inspiration from younger players to kickstart her. https://twitter.com/CurtisCup/status/1430157269786824706 “Three years ago after the Golf Club of Tennessee hosted the U.S. Women’s Amateur in 2018, I was kind of inspired by the girls and felt like it was time for me to maybe get back to the game,” Ingram told Golfweek in April. “I had missed some of my friends from golf and missed the competition and it’s been fun trying to build my game back up.” Ingram teed it up at the inaugural LNGA Mid-Amateur and Senior this spring and won the senior division. She also played the U.S. Senior Women’s Open last month but missed the cut.
Set your DVR (and make sure it has plenty of room)
Golf fans will have to set their alarms early, but there will be plenty of coverage to be found on Golf Channel and Peacock this week. In all, an unprecedented 25 hours of live coverage will be broadcast from the matches. The schedule and coverage times are as follows:
(Note: Local time; all times are subject to change) Wednesday, Aug. 25 4:30 p.m. – Opening Ceremony Thursday, Aug. 26 7:45 a.m. - 8:09 a.m. – Foursomes (three matches) 1 p.m. - 1:30 p.m. – Four-Ball (three matches) Friday, Aug. 27 7:45 a.m. - 8:09 a.m. – Foursomes (three matches) 1 p.m. - 1:30 p.m. – Four-Ball (three matches) Saturday, Aug. 28 10 a.m. - 11:10 a.m. – Singles (eight matches) The Closing Ceremony will immediately follow play
(Note: The following TV times listed in eastern) Thursday, Aug. 26 2:30 a.m. - 11 a.m. – Golf Channel 11 a.m. - 1 p.m. – Peacock Friday, Aug. 27 2:30 a.m. - 11 a.m. – Golf Channel 11 a.m. - 1 p.m. – Peacock Saturday, Aug. 28 4:45 a.m. - 10:30 a.m. – Golf Channel
This week’s matches have been moved back a little over a year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Curtis Cup typically takes place early in the summer on even years. The Americans own a 29-8-3 lead in the biennial competition. Three years ago, at Quaker Ridge in Scarsdale, New York, the U.S. team scored a 17-3 victory over their GB&I counterparts. The USA swept all eight Sunday singles for the first time since the format was changed to a three-day competition in 2008. Kristen Gillman, then a star at Alabama, became just the third player in match history to put together a perfect 5-0-0 record. Only GB&I’s Annabell Fuller returns from those matches. The U.S. team has turned over entirely. https://twitter.com/USGA/status/1429433219057868800