Great Britain and Ireland made a strong start on the opening day of the 41st Curtis Cup match at Conwy Golf Club in Wales taking a 4 ½ - 1 ½ lead over the USA.
In calm and mostly warm conditions, the GB&I team made the most of their home advantage to win out in both the morning foursomes, by 2 ½ to a ½ and then the afternoon fourballs 2 - 1.
Showing a real determination to wrest the trophy back from the USA, who were dominant in the previous match at Quaker Ridge in 2018, the young GB&I team, led by Captain Elaine Ratcliffe, raced out of the traps to take an early grip on the match.
The English pairing of Annabell Fuller and Charlotte Heath set the tone for the day with a convincing 4&3 win over Rachel Kuehn and Emilia Migliaccio and their compatriots Emily Toy and Caley McGinty followed up with a 3&1 victory over Gina Kim and Brooke Matthews.
The top match was a closely fought affair. The world number one and two, Rose Zhang and Rachel Heck, took it down the last against the Scottish pairing of Louise Duncan and Hannah Darling with Zhang holing out for a half on the 18th.
GB&I maintained their momentum in the afternoon fourballs as the USA struggled to fully find their stride. Darling, the youngest player on the GB&I team at the age of 18, was again in the lead pairing, this time with Fuller, and they played out a high quality contest with Heck and Migliaccio that featured 13 birdies between the four players and once again went down the last. Darling, the Girls’ Amateur champion, played an excellent approach to the right handside of the 18th green and holed a 12ft birdie putt which was enough for a one hole win when Heck failed to follow her in from 6ft.
At about the same time, Ireland’s Lauren Walsh combined with McGinty to see off the challenge of Kim and Jensen Castle by 2&1.
The final match of the day also went down the last. It looked to have swung the way of the USA when Zhang, the US Women’s Amateur champion, birdied the 15th and 16th but Annabel Wilson bounced back to win the 17th with a birdie four. Zhang found the fairway with her drive on the last but her approach found the rough to the left of the green. Although she took three to get down from there her par five was enough to seal the win and claim an important point for the USA.
Team GB&I thrill their team Captain
Team GB&I Captain Elaine Ratcliffe was very impressed with how the team performed on day one, she said:
“Oh, just amazed. Not amazed, because that sounds dreadful! I'm just thrilled, thrilled with the result. Thrilled that they have played the golf that I know they can play. I loved the fact that they have had such a great time doing it.
“The foursomes this morning started with a bang, we had one foursome pairing birdie the first and the second and then carry on. Four-ball this afternoon I think started quite flat, I think, after the golf this morning. But then people built on it and came good.
“Hannah and Annabell just kept throwing birdies and I'm kind of, I'm not shell shocked because I know they can play golf, but to have the points on the board that we have at the moment is brilliant.”
However she knows there is still a long way to go, she said:
“You don't win the Curtis Cup on day one. We have got to continue that golf and continue that momentum because for sure the American team will come back. I'm over the moon with where we are, but I think that's why I'm not as emotional, because I know we have got two more days ahead of us. A fantastic start, but shelf it, start again tomorrow.”
The match continues with the second day foursomes getting underway from 7.45am. Please visit RandA.org for the draw. You can watch Live from 7:30am (BST) on YouTube here