The slow play penalty handed to the aptly named American Bailey Tardy could become the big talking point of the Curtis Cup which sees Great Britain and Ireland lead 8-4 heading into today’s eight singles at Dun Laoghaire on the Dublin-Wicklow border.
But as team captaincy is a high risk business, only a positive result today will justify home skipper Elaine Farquharson-Black’s decision to leave one player out entirely until and give another just one game in four.
The Scot has taken a leaf out of the book of Mark James, who rested rookies Jarmo Sandelin, Andrew Coltart and Jean Van de Velde until the singles in the 1999 Ryder Cup at Brookline and paid for it as the USA stormed back on the final day to erase Europe’s four point lead and win in a thriller.
By not playing every member of her team before today’s eight head-to-head clashes at Dun Laoghaire, Farquharson-Black risks becoming the villain of the piece despite the fact that GB&I brilliantly won the foursomes 2-1 and then whitewashed the Americans 3-0 in the rain-delayed afternoon fourballs.
While the American’s need six points from the eight matches for a 10-10 tie that would mean they retain the trophy, GB&I need two and a half points to get to 10.5 points and win the match for only the eighth time in 39 meetings between the sides.
It remains to be seen if tiredness will be a factor on what is a long and hilly parkland course in the foothills of the Wicklow Mountains.
Alice Hewson will be fresh as she played only in the fourballs on Friday afternoon (and lost) while Rochelle Morris — the weakest member of the team on paper as far as her world ranking goes— has not played at all.
With the sides tied 3-3 after day one, Farquharson-Black’s decision looks to have paid off so far with GB&I winning both sessions.
In the foursomes, Leona Maguire and Charlotte Thomas lost by one hole to Bethany Wu and Hannah O’Sullivan but Olivia Mehaffey and Bronte Law beat Tardy and Monica Vaughn 3 and 2 before Meghan MacLaren and Skerries’ Maria Dunne beat Andrea Lee and Sierra Brooks by one hole with MacLaren holing an eight footer at the 18th for the win.
The afternoon four balls were suspended at 2.30pm for one hour and 45 minutes when torrential rain briefly flood several greens.
But the weather wasn’t the only frustration for the USA as the home side romped to a 3-0 session win.
Mehaffey and Law beat Vaughn and Wu 3 and 2 as Tardy was excluded from the 12th hole for two bad times in her fourball with Galliano against MacLaren and Dunne — the first time such a slow play penalty has been imposed in the Curtis Cup.
Three down at the turn, the Americans had just won the 10th and 11th to cut the gap to one hole but with Tardy out of the hole, they crucially lost the par five 12th to a birdie to go two down again.
GB&I then took the 13th in par to go three up despite the fact that Dunne was give her first bad time there.
Maguire and Thomas then beat O’Sullivan and Liu 5 and 4 after covering the front nine in an incredible seven under par.
Maguire was five under fours on her own ball as she followed birdies at the fifth and sixth by holing a wedge from around 90 yards for an eagle three at the seventh and then added a birdie two at the eighth as Thomas weighed in with birdies at the second and ninth.
Curtis Cup, Dun Laoghaire GC (GB&I Names first)
Great Britain & Ireland 8, USA 4
- Leona Maguire & Charlotte Thomas lost to Bethany Wu & Hannah O’Sullivan 1 hole;
- Meghan MacLaren & Maria Dunne bt Sierra Brooks & Andrea Lee 1 hole;
- Olivia Mehaffey & Bronte Law bt Bailey Tardy & Monica Vaughn 3/2.
- Mehaffey & Law bt Vaughn & Wu 3/2;
- MacLaren & Dunne bt Tardy & Mariel Galdiano 3/2;
- Maguire & Thomas bt O’Sullivan & Liu 5/4.
Singles (GB&I names first)
- 10:00 Olivia Mehaffey v Hannah O”Sullivan
- 10:10 Charlotte Thomas v Bailey Tardy
- 10:20 Leona Maguire v Sierra Brooks
- 10:30 Rochelle Morris v Monica Vaughn
- 10:40 Alice Hewson v Andrea Lee
- 10:50 Bronte Law v Mika Liu
- 11:00 Meghan MacLaren v Bethany Wu
- 11:10 Maria Dunne v Mariel Galdiano.