They came to "bring it home" and in the end the United States of America trio proved as good as their word, ending their 20-year wait for victory in the Women's World Amateur Team Championships by hoisting the Espirito Santo Trophy aloft at Carton House in County Kildare.
The emerald green county is the home of thoroughbred flat racing in Ireland and this was a thoroughbred performance with Jennifer Kupucho, Kristen Gillman and Lilia Vu — the top three in the World Amateur Golf Rankings — winning by ten strokes from Japan on 29-under par 551 with the Republic of Korea a shot further back.
"I am so proud of these girls," said American captain Stasia Collins. "I am so proud of this team, and I am really happy for them and thrilled for the United States. They will always be known as the gold medal winners for the 2018 World Amateur Team Championships – no one can take that away from us."
The eventual champions began slowly, opening with a two-under-par 142 on the bunker-strewn Montgomerie Course before shooting the lights out in round two with Gillman and Kupcho firing eight-under-par 65s to leave them a shot clear of Korea.
High winds marked their return to the Montgomerie for round three but while it was a struggle at times, Kupcho birdied three of her last four holes for a one-under 71 and Gillman shot a level par 72 to extend their advantage to five strokes over Korea with Japan a shot further back in third as they chased their first medal in the event.
The shorter O'Meara Course has five par-fives and myriad birdie chances but the Americans gave the chasing pack no encouragement with a blistering final round performance.
Kupcho shot a four-under 69 and Gillman a six-under 67 as Japan rallied to shoot six-under with Yuna Nishimura and Yuri Yoshida both carding 70s to edge out Korea for the silver medal by a stroke.
The defending champions had the consolation of producing the leading individual in Ayean Cho, who finished two strokes ahead of Kupcho and Japan's Yuka Yasuda on 17-under par, the highlight of which was a nine-under-par 64 on the O'Meara Course in the second round.
Gillman was the powerhouse for the USA on the final day, turning in five-under as she made an eagle and four birdies against one bogey before adding a birdie on the 13th en route to her six-under 67.
Kupcho fired a four-under-69 to give the USA a 10-under par fourth-round total of 136, and given that all three played on the victorious USA Curtis Cup Team in June, it was clear this was a true team performance.
"We have the strong bond already from the beginning, especially yesterday when we were all struggling we all fought for each other,” said Kupcho, who won this year's NCAA Women’s individual title.
"We all wanted to win for each other, and I think that was a big thing coming out of yesterday. And, I think that’s how we got our big lead coming into today."
Japan clinched its first appearance on the medal podium in 28 appearances thanks to three-under 70s from 18-year-olds Yoshida and Nishimura.
"I am very, very happy," said Japan captain, Tomoko Sakamoto. "I don’t know what to say!
"I was hoping to at least finish third, so they could raise the national flag. The fourth is the best finish we have had – so this is the best. This team is probably the strongest Japan team we have had. It’s so huge because last week the boys won the gold medal at the Asian games and now the girls have got the silver here. So, the news carries on, and it’s going to have a big impact in Japan."
Hosts proud but disappointed
Ireland was proud to host a brilliantly organised Espirito Santo Trophy but disappointed to finish tied for 11th with Sweden and Switzerland on four-under-par — 14 shots outside the medal places.
After breaking through in Mexico two years ago to finish third and claim a medal for the first time, expectations were sky high.
But after opening with an encouraging three-under 141 on the Montgomerie Course on day one, they failed to spark on the easier O'Meara Course on day two and fell 13 shots off the medal places.
They rallied again in high winds on the Montgomerie Course to surge from tenth to fourth with a round to go. But a level par final day total on the O'Meara Course was not good enough and they were trampled in the final round stampede as China, Germany, Italy, Canada, Denmark, Mexico and Norway all overtook them.
"I think Ireland has done itself proud hosting this tournament," Olivia Mehaffey said after closing with a one-over 74 to finish tied 12th in the individual standings on three-under par.
"It felt like we were playing a major or a US Amateur — one of those prestigious events that it really felt good to play. If we had played all four rounds on the Montgomerie Course we might have done better. We just struggled a bit on the O'Meara Course but that's the way it goes."
Arizona State's Mehaffey may be a professional when the next Espirito Santo Trophy is staged but 17-year-old Annabel Wilson is likely to be a UCLA play by then and after closing with a one-under 72 to finish tied 23rd, she believes she can only get better.
"Overall I had a really great week and I am happy with how I played," Wilson said. "We are not that far behind the leading nations and when we got a bronze medal two years ago, it was like, 'hold on here, we can compete with the big dogs, no problem.'
"Again this week, we were up there close but again, the second day, we didn't get things going and that put us behind for the whole week.
"UCLA has a great programme there and they have produced a lot of LPGA Tour players and that's what I want to do.
"I think that will bring my game on so much, warm weather all year round, practising with the best in the world."
Paula Grant, who tied for 63rd on seven over, felt the Americans and South Korean teams were just marginally stronger in all departments but she was encouraged to see that her game is not that far away.
"I was a wee bit nervous about playing with the Americans and the Koreans but you can see that there is not too much difference with our games," she said. "Maybe they hit it slightly further than me and hit fewer destructive shots. And then I saw a lot of putts go in that weren't mine.
"They were very repetitive - able to do the same things over and over again. It was a learning experience and a confidence boost, knowing there is not that much difference. I don' t have to change my whole golf swing.
"The scores on the Monty were so good for the conditions. But my wedges weren't good today at all. That's where you need to be making your scores. Hit it to five-10 feet and take those chances. It was still an unforgettable week.:
Ireland's non-playing captain Danielle McVeigh felt that her charges had simply tried too hard, especially when playing the easier course where wedge play and low scoring on the par-fives were key elements.
"When you are at a home venue and friends and family come out to support, it could be that it comes down to just trying too hard," she said. "If somebody knows how to not do that, they can please come and let us know.
"We had the resilience and the determination on the tough golf course so if we could have freed up a wee bit on the O'Meara, you never know what could have happened."
On Wilson, who was an excellent foil to Mehaffey all week, McVeigh said: Annabel is only 17 and she proved she is a world class golfer this week, which is great for her. To have the guiding hand of Olivia has just been super for her. She will get back to the States now and hopefully win a few tournaments.
"When she goes to college in the US she will be testing herself against the best in the world, week in, week out. The practise facilities there are just incredible so she will get better just by being there. She is incredibly smart on the golf course. She has such natural talent that she is definitely one to watch."
As for how Ireland stack up against the likes of the Americans and especially the regimented Koreans, who play such a controlled game that they can be both impressive and joyless at the same time, she said: "If you saw their seven, eight-unders, they didn't look anything special in that they could have been 12 under. They were just very good. Just a little bit better driving, a little bit better with approach shots and a little bit better putting. It's all just marginal gains.
"They are probably more level-headed but we beat them the two days out on the Monty. They were just very good. The Americans are 1-2-3 in the world so that was always going to be tight to compete with. I think we have plenty to learn which is great.
"I just loved being back with the girls and it has given me a passion for golf again. I feel I am learning a ton. Just being involved for the past 18 months has been brilliant."
World Amateur Team Championships, Espirito Santo Trophy, Carton House
551 United States of America (Gillman 67, Vu 74, Kupcho 69)
561 Japan (Yoshida 70, Yasuda 71, Nishimura 70)
562 Republic of Korea (Kwon 72, Hong 75, Cho 70)
566 People's Republic of China (Du 68, Liu 67, Yin 74)
569 Germany (Harm 73, Hausmann 72, Henseleit 66)
570 Italy (Don 71, Paltrinieri 71, Nobilio 68)
573 Canada (Ko 76, Lee 65, Szeryk 72)
574 Denmark (Fredgaard 69, Nielsen 71, Hansen 72)
574 Mexico (Lopez 70, Ruiz Laphond 74, Fassi 71)
575 Norway (Stormo 70, Forbrigd 72, Hjelle Grimstad 67)
576 Ireland (Mehaffey 74, Grant 75, Wilson 72)
576 Sweden (Kinhult 72, Wallin 72, Grant 68)
576 Switzerland (Valenzuela 70, Berger 74, Moosmann 71)
577 Australia (Kay 68, Kim 76, Hodgkins 71)
578 Austria (Bettel 78, Ruettimann 77, Spitz 69)
578 South Africa (Telfer 70, Mistry 77, MacNab 69)
579 Spain (Marfa Sans 75, Hualde Zuniga 68, Perez Sanmartin 73)
581 England (Fuller 70, Muse 76, Lamb 72)
582 New Zealand (Alvarez 76, Garvey 71, Keh 74)
583 France (Roussin-Bouchard 75, Broze 73, Laisne 72)
583 Paraguay (Escauriza Stoeckl 75, Garcia Peralta 74, Servin 71)
584 Chinese Taipei (Lin 71, Lin 71, Huang 74)
585 Netherlands (Bontan 76, Meekers 75, Weber 70)
586 Scotland (Jaffrey 71, McCook 71, McWilliam 72)
587 India (Dagar 74, Dilawari 71, Sagoo 72)
587 Venezuela (Raga 80, Gilly 69, De Antonio 71)
588 Thailand (Boon-In 72, Piddon 74, Tatematsu 74)
589 Puerto Rico (Rodriguez 73, Rivera 70, Pacheco Claudio 75)
590 Colombia (Garces Escalante 72, Giraldo Roys 73, Serrano Silva 68)
591 Argentina (Anacona 74, Rossi 71, Simmermacher 78)
592 Belgium (Aveling 77, Louis 72, Van Dievoet 75)
592 Czech Republic (Ryskova 76, Vlasinova 74, Kouskova 73)
592 Finland (Backman 69, Saksa 77, Riihijarvi 73)
593 Hong Kong, China (Cheung 73, Ho 68, Leung 75)
596 Dominican Republic (Corrie-Kuehn 83, Kim 75, Kuehn 76)
598 Guatemala (Echeverria 72, Mendizabal Riepele 69, Arenas 84)
601 Malaysia (Shaari 80, Wong 82, Durisic 76)
601 Morocco (Laklalech 81, Rich 81, Belmati 73)
603 Iceland (Kristinsdottir 74, Traustadottir 79, Einarsdottir 75)
606 Peru (Farah 75, Ballesteros 85, Fernandez-Davila 76)
606 Portugal (Barroso Sa 78, Bessa 74, Gouveia 80)
607 Chile (Morgan 80, Matte 71, Villavicencio 74)
608 Slovenia (Fric 79, Obersnel 68, Jecnik 76)
611 Uruguay (Schmid 76, Marques 79, Garcia Austt Marques 76)
612 Wales (Morris 78, Ryan 75, O'Connor 80)
614 Slovakia (Heckova 76, Drocarova 77, Bolcikova 78)
616 Turkey (Ersoy 75, Bilgic 76, Timur 83)
620 Poland (Polivchak 80, Gradecka 84, Zalewska 77)
622 Singapore (Chen 77, Ng 81, Tan 79)
629 Brazil (Grinberg 73, Lacaz Martins 83, de Araujo Caetano 79)
633 Lithuania (Jarasunaite 83, Starkute 80)
650 Latvia (Gustafssone 91, Jucmane 86, Marksa 88)
656 Guam (Tarpley WD, Vongjalorn 79, Peterson 90)
661 Bulgaria (Borisova 87, Simeonova 84, Skokanska 86)
671 Tunisia (Ladhari 88, Mansouri 87, Saki 82)
681 Ukraine (Rastvortseva 83, Horokhovska 87, Sapronova 93)
684 Lebanon (Assaf 94, Richani 79, Assaf 93)
World Amateur Team Championships, Carton House, Maynooth, Kildare
273 A Cho (KOR), 68M, 64O, 71M, 70O;
275 J Kupcho (USA), 70M, 65O, 71M, 69O; Y Yasuda (JPN), 65M, 67O, 72M, 71O;
278 K Gillman (USA), 74M, 65O, 72M, 67O;
282 J Lee (CAN), 76M, 69O, 72M, 65O;
283 R Kay (AUS), 68M, 74O, 73M, 68O; E Henseleit (GER), 72O, 70M, 75M, 66O;
285 A Valenzuela (SUI), 73M, 71O, 71M, 70O; A Nobilio (ITA), 73M, 68O, 76M, 68O; M Du (CHN), 67O, 71M, 79M, 68O; M Fassi (MEX), 74O, 69M, 71M, 71O;
287 Olivia Mehaffey (IRL), 70M, 73O, 70M, 74O; L Grant (SWE), 73M, 72O, 74M, 68O; Y Nishimura (JPN), 71M, 72O, 74M, 70O; C MacNab (RSA), 75O, 71M, 72M, 69O; T Lin (TPE), 74O, 71M, 71M, 71O;
288 L Vu (USA), 72M, 69O, 73M, 74O; C Louis (BEL), 73M, 69O, 74M, 72O; W Liu (CHN), 77O, 69M, 75M, 67O; E Hualde Zuniga (ESP), 77O, 67M, 76M, 68O; E Spitz (AUT), 73O, 73M, 73M, 69O; R Hjelle Grimstad (NOR), 78O, 73M, 70O, 67M;
289 Annabel Wilson (IRL), 71M, 74O, 72M, 72O; A Garvey (NZL), 76M, 70O, 72M, 71O; T Piddon (THA), 70M, 67O, 78M, 74O; C Don (ITA), 70M, 74O, 74M, 71O; S Hausmann (GER), 73O, 71M, 73M, 72O; P Echeverria (GUA), 73O, 69M, 75M, 72O; S McWilliam (SCO), 74O, 69M, 74M, 72O;
290 M Hansen (DEN), 72M, 73O, 73M, 72O; F Kinhult (SWE), 74M, 71O, 73M, 72O; Y Yoshida (JPN), 71M, 73O, 76M, 70O; A Backman (FIN), 75O, 72M, 74M, 69O; P Roussin-Bouchard (FRA), 72O, 75M, 68O, 75M;
291 S Kwon (KOR), 74M, 69O, 76M, 72O; K Fredgaard (DEN), 79M, 69O, 74M, 69O; M Escauriza Stoeckl (PAR), 72M, 69O, 75M, 75O; A Fuller (ENG), 74M, 74O, 73M, 70O; K Telfer (RSA), 75O, 73M, 73M, 70O;
292 S Nielsen (DEN), 75M, 71O, 75M, 71O; K Stormo (NOR), 77O, 75M, 70O, 70M;
293 A Servin (PAR), 77M, 72O, 73M, 71O; E Paltrinieri (ITA), 76M, 74O, 72M, 71O; M Ho (HKG), 74O, 71M, 80M, 68O; R Kuehn (DOM), 71O, 73M, 73O, 76M;
294 E Moosmann (SUI), 74M, 75O, 74M, 71O; S Sagoo (IND), 78M, 67O, 77M, 72O;M Szeryk (CAN), 80M, 71O, 71M, 72O; D Weber (NED), 77M, 73O, 74M, 70O; R Yin (CHN), 73O, 70M, 77M, 74O; S Kouskova (CZE), 73O, 73M, 75O, 73M; D Forbrigd (NOR), 73O, 75M, 74O, 72M;
295 S Garces Escalante (COL), 75M, 71O, 77M, 72O; S Lamb (ENG), 75M, 71O, 77M, 72O; L Harm (GER), 70O, 73M, 79M, 73O; L Bettel (AUT), 69O, 72M, 76M, 78O; C De Antonio (VEN), 72O, 76M, 76M, 71O; L Belmati (MAR), 72O, 76M, 74O, 73M;
296 Z Bontan (NED), 72M, 72O, 76M, 76O; C Lopez (MEX), 73O, 72M, 81M, 70O; E Broze (FRA), 76O, 74M, 73O, 73M; V Pacheco Claudio (PUR), 75O, 75M, 71O, 75M;
297 Paula Grant (IRL), 74M, 75O, 73M, 75O; M Serrano Silva (COL), 79M, 71O, 79M, 68O; D Dagar (IND), 74M, 73O, 76M, 74O; A Laisne (FRA), 76O, 76M, 73O, 72M;
298 Y Hong (KOR), 72M, 71O, 80M, 75O; M Farah (PER), 75M, 75O, 73O, 75M; P Marfa Sans (ESP), 80O, 70M, 73M, 75O; M Perez Sanmartin (ESP), 75O, 74M, 76M, 73O; C Jaffrey (SCO), 74O, 72M, 81M, 71O;
299 V Rossi (ARG), 79M, 77O, 72O, 71M; Y Berger (SUI), 79M, 74O, 72M, 74O; W Keh (NZL), 75M, 73O, 77M, 74O; N Ko (CAN), 78M, 70O, 75M, 76O; B Wallin (SWE), 80M, 71O, 76M, 72O; H Muse (ENG), 77M, 70O, 76M, 76O;
300 J Alvarez (NZL), 73M, 77O, 74M, 76O; G Wong (MAS), 76M, 72O, 70O, 82M; K Vlasinova (CZE), 77O, 77M, 72O, 74M; M Cheung (HKG), 70O, 78M, 79M, 73O; J Rivera (PUR), 75O, 76M, 79O, 70M;
301 N Boon-In (THA), 77M, 74O, 78M, 72O; R Tatematsu (THA), 77M, 72O, 78M, 74O; A Ruiz Laphond (MEX), 79O, 74M, 74M, 74O; K Lin (TPE), 79O, 74M, 77M, 71O; J Ruettimann (AUT), 76O, 69M, 79M, 77O; L Bessa (POR), 78O, 71M, 78O, 74M;
302 G Kim (AUS), 73M, 77O, 76M, 76O; E Anacona (ARG), 75M, 73O, 80O, 74M; Y Rodriguez (PUR), 77O, 78M, 74O, 73M;
303 K Hodgkins (AUS), 75M, 74O, 83M, 71O; P Schmid (URU), 76M, 78O, 73O, 76M; Y Huang (TPE), 79O, 70M, 80M, 74O; V Gilly (VEN), 84O, 75M, 75M, 69O; H McCook (SCO), 77O, 73M, 82M, 71O; Y Kim (DOM), 77O, 76M, 75O, 75M; H Einarsdottir (ISL), 79O, 73M, 76O, 75M;
304 R Dilawari (IND), 77M, 75O, 81M, 71O; A Matte (CHI), 80M, 73O, 80O, 71M; 304 L Durisic (MAS), 78M, 74O, 76O, 76M;
305 M Simmermacher (ARG), 77M, 78O, 72O, 78M; I Fric (SLO), 81M, 70O, 75O, 79M; N Villavicencio (CHI), 76M, 76O, 79O, 74M; H Ryskova (CZE), 77O, 75M, 77O, 76M;
306 V Giraldo Roys (COL), 83M, 73O, 77M, 73O; V Obersnel (SLO), 79M, 74O, 76O, 77M; S Garcia Peralta (PAR), 83M, 72O, 77M, 74O; R Meekers (NED), 75M, 71O, 85M, 75O; I Laklalech (MAR), 78O, 73M, 74O, 81M;
307 A Bolcikova (SVK), 77M, 76O, 76O, 78M; B Morris (WAL), 79M, 74O, 76O, 78M; K Mistry (RSA), 79O, 74M, 77M, 77O; G Starkute (LTU), 75O, 76M, 76O, 80M;
308 S Shaari (MAS), 78M, 73O, 77O, 80M;
309 S Ersoy (TUR), 83M, 80O, 71O, 75M; S Garcia Austt Marques (URU), 78M, 77O, 78O, 76M; V Mendizabal Riepele (GUA), 77O, 78M, 85M, 69O; E Saksa (FIN), 76O, 73M, 83M, 77O; S Gouveia (POR), 81O, 74M, 74O, 80M;
310 J Fernandez-Davila (PER), 82M, 78O, 74O, 76M; C Aveling (BEL), 78M, 73O, 82M, 77O; L Grinberg (BRA), 74O, 84M, 79O, 73M;
311 N Heckova (SVK), 80M, 77O, 78O, 76M; K Drocarova (SVK), 81M, 78O, 75O, 77M; L Jecnik (SLO), 83M, 76O, 76O, 76M; S Barroso Sa (POR), 80O, 73M, 80O, 78M;
312 E Van Dievoet (BEL), 74M, 78O, 85M, 75O; K O'Connor (WAL), 78M, 75O, 79O, 80M; D Gradecka (POL), 76M, 74O, 78O, 84M;
313 S Tan (SGP), 79M, 78O, 77O, 79M; S Traustadottir (ISL), 76O, 75M, 83O, 79M;
314 J Ryan (WAL), 81M, 81O, 77O, 75M; I Leung (HKG), 78O, 78M, 83M, 75O; V Richani (LBN), 79O, 76M, 80O, 79M;
315 C Chen (SGP), 82M, 75O, 81O, 77M; J Marques (URU), 79M, 77O, 80O, 79M; N Vongjalorn (GUM), 78O, 79M, 79O, 79M;
317 S Timur (TUR), 81M, 75O, 78O, 83M; M Jucmane (LAT), 79M, 73O, 79O, 86M; S Morgan (CHI), 78M, 77O, 82O, 80M;
318 D Bilgic (TUR), 80M, 82O, 80O, 76M; D Zalewska (POL), 83M, 77O, 81O, 77M;
319 I Ng (SGP), 79M, 81O, 78O, 81M; N Polivchak (POL), 87M, 74O, 78O, 80M; I Rich (MAR), 84O, 77M, 77O, 81M; R Kristinsdottir (ISL), 85O, 85M, 75O, 74M;
321 A Raga (VEN), 73O, 83M, 85M, 80O; L de Araujo Caetano (BRA), 80O, 81M, 81O, 79M;
325 D Ballesteros (PER), 82M, 76O, 82O, 85M;
326 S Jarasunaite (LTU), 80O, 82M, 81O, 83M;
331 M Borisova (BUL), 82O, 81M, 81O, 87M;
334 E Rastvortseva (UKR), 81O, 89M, 81O, 83M; M Lacaz Martins (BRA), 88O, 84M, 79O, 83M;
336 I Simeonova (BUL), 83O, 83M, 86O, 84M; B Corrie-Kuehn (DOM), 82O, 83M, 88O, 83M;
339 K Gustafssone (LAT), 89M, 82O, 77O, 91M;
340 S Skokanska (BUL), 90O, 82M, 82O, 86M;
341 R Peterson (GUM), 84O, 84M, 83O, 90M;
342 B Arenas (GUA), 83O, 88M, 87M, 84O;
344 A Marksa (LAT), 86M, 83O, 87O, 88M;
345 K Ladhari (TUN), 86O, 86M, 85O, 88M;
347 D Horokhovska (UKR), 88O, 86M, 86O, 87M;
351 H Mansouri (TUN), 84O, 95M, 85O, 87M;
373 S Assaf (LBN), 89O, 100M, 91O, 93M;
386 V Sapronova (UKR), 98O, 95M, 100O, 93M;
387 L Assaf (LBN), 100O, 97M, 96O, 94M;
NC K Riihijarvi (FIN), 73O, 74M, WDM, 73O;
NC G Saki (TUN), 84O, 78M, DQO, 82M;
WD R Tarpley (GUM), 87O, 91M, WDO, WDM