Three Irish make Curtis Cup team — joy for Maria Dunne
 Maria Dunne. Picture: Ronan Lang

Maria Dunne. Picture: Ronan Lang

Nearly a decade after excruciating back pain left her crawling to her car on all fours and contemplating giving up the game forever, Skerries’ Maria Dunne was floating on air yesterday.

The 32-year old Dubliner was thrilled to be one of two picks by captain Elaine Farquharson-Black and named alongside Irish team mates and automatic qualifiers Leona Maguire and Olivia Mehaffey and five English players in the eight-strong Great Britain and Ireland Curtis Cup team to face the United States.

Now she’s determined to make her selection all the more memorable by winning back the trophy at Dun Laoghaire Golf Club from June 10-12, her back troubles now a thing of the past as she told us early last year, thanks to daily 6am gym sessions.

“I was on the 14th hole on Conwy in Wales practicing for the Welsh Women’s Open this week and literally found out then,” said a delighted Dunne, who is the first GB&I player over 30 to make the side since Ennis’ Tricia Mangan got the call up at the same age in 2008. 

Married to farmer Bryan Leonard and working full time at Kinsealy Grange Driving Range, she said: “It’s unbelievable. It was a dream and you always wonder if it’s possible. So I guess it was. 

“My determination paid off and I have to thank my amazing coach, Roger Yates, who will have two players in Dun Laoghaire because Meghan MacLaren is also with him.”

With Leona and Olivia securing their places through the world rankings, Ireland can claim to have more than three on the team as MacLaren, whose mother is a Senior Irish international from Portrush, is also coached from a distance by Yates, currently based in Nigeria.

Dunne has been wonderfully consistent in recent year but she arguably sealed her place at Royal Troon last weekend when she was co-leader with three holes to play in the Helen Holm Scottish Women’s Strokeplay Championship but double bogeyed the 17th and eventually finished solo third behind runner up Mehaffey and eventual champion Olivia Winning.

“I had it in my head that I needed to do something in the Irish Strokeplay at The Island to get on the Curtis Cup team so when it didn’t go as well as I wanted, I thought that maybe my chance had gone and I went into Scotland feeling relaxed and free,” said Dunne. 

“Troon was a fantastic week for me. But when thought about it on the ferry home, I was thinking it was a pity I dropped two shots on 17 and if I had won the Helen Holm, would I have made the Curtis Cup team. So I was resigned to the fact that I had done my best. 

“Now I am stunned and absolutely thrilled.”

Having three Irish players in the Curtis Cup team for the first time since Danielle McVeigh and the Maguire twins Lisa and Leona played in 2010 is a major boost to the ILGU and its High Performance programme.

High Performance manager David Kearney was delighted for all three but singled out Dunne for special mention.

He said: “She went out to the Scottish Open Stroke Play last week knowing she needed to come close to a win and nearly did. Her determination and preparation is second to none.”

GB&I Curtis Cup team

  • Maria Dunne (Skerries, Ire)
  • Alice Hewson (Berkhamsted, Eng)
  • Bronte Law (Bramhall, Eng)
  • Meghan MacLaren (Wellingborough, Eng)
  • Leona Maguire (Slieve Russell, Ire)
  • Olivia Mehaffey (Royal County Down Ladies’, Ire),
  • Rochelle Morris (Woodsome Hall, Eng),
  • Charlotte Thomas (Moonah Links, Australia, Eng)
  • 1st Reserve: Lianna Bailey (Kirby Muxloe, Eng)
  • Captain: Elaine Farquharson Black (Sco).
  • Manager: Helen Hewlett (Eng).

The ILGU was delighted with the news.

World number one amateur golfer, Leona Maguire (Slieve Russell/Duke) was a cert to make the team as the top four ranked players in the World Amateur Golf Rankings (WAGR) and the top 2 in the LGU Order of Merit were automatic selections. Maguire had an outstanding 2015 season as she reached number one in the WAGR in mid May 2015, won the 2015 Annika Award for the best golfer of the year in American college women’s golf and was selected as the 2015 WGCA (Women's Golf Coaches Association) Player of the Year and Freshman of the Year. These achievements are a few among too many to mention. 2016 will be Maguire’s 4th consecutive time to make the Curtis Cup side, and with only one win for the GB&I side in 2012, she will be hoping to be part of another winning team this June on home turf at Dun Laoghaire.
It has been a lightening few years to the top for Royal County Down player Olivia Mehaffey (RCDL). Mehaffey was also a certainty to make the GB&I Curtis Cup Team as she was the 3rd highest ranked GB&I player in the WAGR. Her achievements in the past two years alone surpass the expectations of many. 2015 Scottish Ladies, Welsh Ladies and Irish Girls’ Champion, 2016 Irish Ladies Champion and runner-up at the 2016 Scottish Ladies Open Championship are some of her accolades. She is no stranger to elite representative golf as in 2015 she represented GB&I at the Junior Vagliano Trophy Match and represented Europe at the Junior Solheim Cup.  Mehaffey came back stronger than ever after a bout of glandular fever earlier this year and has proved she is raring to go and ready for battle.
Maria Dunne was one of two picks to join Elaine Farquharson-Black’s side to face the USA at the Curtis Cup Match in June. She was chosen alongside England’s Charlotte Thomas. Dunne has been an Irish Ladies International for five consecutive years and has been the leader and inspiration for many up and coming girls and hopeful international players. She has been, and is a familiar face and regular point scorer at the Home International Matches and European Team Championships over the past number of years and is an invaluable asset to the Irish side. She has stepped up her game since her return to golf after injury in 2011 and has never looked back.
She was part of a three person Irish team to travel to Japan for the World Amateur Team Championships in 2014 and made a flying start to the 2015 season:
  • 2nd at the South American Amateur Open
  • Quarter-Finalist in the Spanish Ladies Amateur Championship
  • T8 at Welsh Open Stroke Play Championship
2016 has already been a steady year for the Skerries star:
  • Last 16 at the Spanish Amateur Championship
  • 35th at the Portuguese amateur Championship
  • 3rd at the Scottish Women’s Open Stroke Play Championship
A leader among her fellow peers and players, Dunne will be a welcome addition to the GB&I Curtis Cup side at Dun Laoghaire in June.