The Nos. 1 and 2 amateurs in the world had their handshake down pat to start the first of three days at the Curtis Cup at Conwy Golf Club in Wales, but the two couldn’t quite manage a point in the first group off the tee on Thursday morning.
Rose Zhang and Rachel Heck certainly had ranking in their favor, but Great Britain & Ireland teammates Hannah Darling and Louise Duncan weren’t budging. Ultimately, Heck stuck it tight on the final hole of morning foursomes and Zhang holed the putt for a birdie that earned the Americans half a point.
The U.S. would win only one more the rest of the day, giving GB&I a 4 ½ to 1 ½ lead after two sessions.
“It was such a hard-fought match, they played amazing as we knew they would, they’re super-accomplished players, and Louise killed it last week in the AIG,” Heck said, referencing Duncan’s T10 at the Women’s British Open. “We knew it was going to be a tough match and it definitely was.”
A clutch finish from Team USA in match 1 to win the last and get a halve for their side 👏🇺🇸 pic.twitter.com/jAJk0cVSJO
— The Curtis Cup (@CurtisCup) August 26, 2021
GB&I won two more full points in the morning and then two more in three afternoon four-ball matches. Only Zhang and U.S. teammate Allisen Corpuz were able to take a full point off their GB&I counterparts on Day One.
Three years ago at Quaker Ridge in Scarsdale, New York, the Curtis Cup was extremely lopsided in the Americans’ favor. They scored a 17-3 victory, piling on eight points in Sunday singles. It’s clear that kind of runaway won’t happen again. An early lead will only boost GB&I’s confidence.
“Obviously we still need to go and just follow-up it tomorrow and it’s not over until the end, I guess,” Darling said at the end of the afternoon’s fourball matches. “But, yeah, it really helps and it gives us more momentum going into tomorrow which is always nice.”
On paper, the eight U.S. players boast better positions in the World Amateur Golf Ranking – just not the Nos. 1 and 2 players but seven of eight players in the top 35.
Duncan, however, is one of three players (including Lauren Walsh and Annabell Fuller) who played the weekend at the Women’s British Open last week. Fuller is the only returner from the 2018 matches on either team.
Asked about the 2018 Curtis Cup results on the eve of the matches, Elaine Ratcliffe noted the talent among her squad of eight.
“As far as I’m concerned, we will bring a match to America, and I feel we will come out the other end with the right amount of points, whether that be half a point more, one point, two points, three points more,” she said. “We’ve certainly got golfers that can golf. With the crowd, with the support that we’ve got, I think that they will be able to raise their game to a higher level.
“I don’t know — I mean, it sounds dreadful saying I’m pretty sure we can win in that I don’t mean that at all. What I know is I know that we can golf and I know that we can play at a high standard. The girls do that, and we’ve got a very good chance to bring the trophy home.”
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