O'Sullivan targets Vagliano Trophy

By Brian Keogh

Des Smyth wouldn’t consider himself a ladies man – but just don’t tell Curtis Cup skipper Ada O’Sullivan.

O’Sullivan led the Great Britain and Ireland women’s amateur team at the World Cup last October and has just been named as captain until of Curtis Cup and Vagliano Trophy teams

And she’s taking her new role so seriously that she has called in the help of the former Ryder Cup player Smyth.

The Curtis Cup isn’t until 2004 at Formby but O’Sullivan is keen to get off to a winning start in next July’s Vagliano Trophy clash with Continental Europe at Baltray – Smyth’s lifelong headquarters.

The 49-year-old legend learnt his game at the windswept County Louth links and O’Sullivan wants tactical advice on how to play the course.

“I’ve always been into course management. You can be a bad golfer and bring in a reasonably good score if you take right decisions.

“In fact, it was one of the big talking points in our camp after the world cup in Malaysia. I was with three plus handicap golfers and if their course management had been improved God knows how much better we could have done.”
Smyth is a links expert and knows every blade of grass at Baltray.

His advice can be a huge help to the team before he goes off in search of fortune on the megabucks US Champions Tour next season.

She explained: “Baltray is a course that requires a lot of local knowledge and Des is the ideal player to help our players to negotiate their way around.

“With his course management tips I think we can go a long way towards winning the Vagliano Trophy for the first time since 1992.

“I’ve sent him a letter, asking for a meeting because he is the Baltray man and if he was around when the squad goes to Baltray he could give us a lot of help.

“They have a lot of top class golfers at that club – the likes of Barry Reddan and the Mark Gannon – who know the place backwards. With local knowledge you are two up before you start.”

The Vagliano Trophy against the Continent of Europe will be played at County Louth from 25 – 26 July with the 2004 Curtis Cup to come at Formby the following year.

And O’Sullivan, who still plays off scratch, feels she can motivate the players to victory despite her inexperience at this level.

“I always wanted to play Curtis Cup and with the family business I never had enough time to dedicate myself. I never thought about being captain because up until this year you have to be a past player.

“But it was something special to I lead the GB and I team at the World Cup in October. It’s a feeling that money can’t buy and I’m so looking forward to the next two years.

“We haven’t won the Vagliano for 10 years or the Curtis Cup for eight years so I can’t really do any worse.”

The last time the Americans were beaten in the Curtis Cup, at Killarney in 1996, Ireland’s Ita Butler captained the side.

Butler will be president of the ILGU next year so that could be a good omen for O’Sullivan as she opens a new chapter in her career.

She said: “As an Irish person it’s an honour to lead to lead the four nations in the name of sport and friendship.

“It’s hard to believe that we have never had the Vagliano Trophy in Ireland and we will have massive support.

“Even if you ring Baltray now they will ask you if you are a looking for accommodation for next summer.”
O’Sullivan’s career came to an abrupt end when an accident at work forced her to retire from the international scene.

“We have an electrical business and two microwaves fell on me and I suffered some nerve damage,” she explained.

“I played international golf from 1982 to 1997 and took a year out in 1998 when this happen to me. So that made my mind up for me.

“But I stayed on in the game and I captained the Irish under 18s and under 21s and then I was lady captain of Monkstown. Even when I was asked to be captain of Monkstown I felt I was too young but things have gone well for me.”

Now she has been given the biggest job of all, despite never having made the Curtis Cup side itself.

“I suppose that having played international golf will be a big plus. I’ll be very young compared to past captains at 37 and that will help me relate more to the players I think.

“Life is a continuous string of experiences and this as good as it gets.”