After Day One of the 2018 Curtis Cup, the US Squad held an early 4-2 lead, anchored by the stellar Friday Afternoon pairing of Lauren Stephenson & Kristen Gillman. The Alabama Crimson Tide duo played Foursomes (alternate shot) to near-perfection, carding a -5 under tally through 14 holes. Their play was so stellar that it even evoked a “Roll Tide” comment from their Auburn graduate captain, Virgina Derby Grimes.
Match 1 – Olivia Mehaffey & Sophie Lamb vs Jennifer Kupcho & Kristen Gillman
GB&I Captain Elaine Farquharson-Black elected to lead off with her hottest duo from Day One. The pairing of Mehaffey & Lamb accounted for 1.5 of Team GB&I’s 2 points from Day One, and it was their 3rd consecutive pairing of the Curtis Cup. Team USA countered with the pairing of Jennifer Kupcho (#2 in the World Amateur Golf Rankings) and Kristen Gillman (#8 WAGR).
The GB&I squad struck first with a birdie on the 508 yard 1st hole, but the Americans quickly answered back with a birdie on the 393 yard 2nd. The US bogeyed the difficult 7th, giving the GB&I squad a rare lead.
The US turned the (Crimson) tide of the match on the next two holes, as Alabama junior Gillman rolled in a birdie on the short par four 8th and teased the gallery with a near ace on the 139 yard 9th. Gillman’s efforts left the US with a 1 up lead at the turn, and Kupcho extended the lead to 2up with a birdie on the 12th. Gillman hit a stellar approach on the par five 14th to 5 feet, but Kupcho sank her much longer birdie attempt before Gillman has a chance to convert.
On the 15th, Olivia Mehaffey gave the GB&I pair some hope of a comeback with a beautiful iron to 5 feet. However, that hope was short-lived as Kupcho responded immediately with an approach to half the distance, playing a wedge past the hole before allowing the slope to set up the birdie. With the offsetting birdies, the first match was dormie and the match concluded on the 16th, giving the US a 3&2 victory.
Match 2 – Alice Hewson & Annabell Fuller vs Mariel Galdiano & Lilia Vu
The second match of the day featured the Curtis Cup debut of youngster Annabell Fuller, who recently turned 16. She was paired with Alice Hewson, who was returning from the victorious 2016 GB&I squad. Team USA matched with the UCLA tandem of Lilia Vu and Mariel Galdiano (#22).
Vu, the #1 ranked Amateur in the World Rankings, demonstrated why she has attained such a position by rolling in a 15 footer on the first hole. The devilish back left pin position on the 2nd green extracted a three-putt from Hewson, giving the US an early 2 up lead.
The 6th at Quaker Ridge is the most challenging on the course. At 424 yards, the dogleg right features bunkers on the inside corner, but a creek on the far side of the fairway for those that carry too far past the guarding sand. Team USA had difficulty off the tee, with Vu reaching the far water, and Galdiano caught in one of the deep fairway bunkers. When Galdiano needed two attempts to escape the sand, the GB&I squad appeared that it would shrink the 2 hole deficit.
After her penalty drop, Vu executed a solid iron around a partially-obstructing tree to salvage a bogey. The GB&I squad failed to capitalize, and headed to the 7th tee feeling a little deflated. The missed opportunity felt a little worse when Vu converted a frightening downhill putt for birdie on the tough 7th, extending the US lead to 3 up.
With the sudden reversal of fortunes from the 6th and 7th, the GB&I duo could have been disheartened. However, Hewson responded with a birdie on the 8th after a rare Vu missed putt. The youngster Fuller then converted from 5 feet on the 9th to give the GB&I team consecutive victories and reduced to US lead to 1up at the turn..
Hewson & Fuller couldn’t use their newfound momentum to close the gap, and the teams traded pars on the 10th through 13th holes. Team USA was leaving opportunities, as Galdiano struggled at times during the match. However, Lilia Vu backed up her UCLA teammate to maintain the advantage.
On the 501 yard 14th, Fuller and Vu both nearly reached the green in two, leaving tricky pitch shots towards a front right pin falling away. Only Vu could convert for the birdie and the US lead was restored to 2 up with 4 to play. On the 15th, Fuller struck a brilliant approach, but couldn’t convert. The match ended 2&1 on the 17th after the teams traded pars. However, Annabell Fuller’s solid play in her debut earned her a return spot if the afternoon Foursome matches.
Match 3 – Lily May Humphreys & Shannon McWilliam vs Lucy Li and Andrea Lee
The final match of Saturday Morning was one of the youngest combined in Curtis Cup history. Team GB&I sent out 16 year old Lily May Humphreys and 18 year old Shannon McWilliam. Andrea Lee, at 19 years old, served as elder statewoman to her 15 year old teammate, Lucy Li. However, at age 15, Lucy Li has been a household name the longest. Li qualified for the 2014 US Open when she was only 10 years old and won low amateur at the ANA Inspiration in 2017.
This match was one of the most exciting of the morning session and started off early. Andrea Lee holed a snaking downhill putt from just off the 1st green, but McWilliam responded with her own to halve the opened. Both teams hit great approaches to the 2nd, but only Li could solve the treacherous pin position to give the US an early 2 up lead.
The Americans ceded the lead with a bogey on the 3rd, but quickly regained it with another birdie on the difficult 4th. After a GB&I three-putt on #5, the US was 2up, and the teams traded pars on the 6th. GB&I looked like they might close the gap after a brilliant approach on the 386 yard 7th. However, Lucy Li chipped in from 10 yards short of the green to negate the eventual GB&I birdie and retain the 2up US margin.
After such a volatile start on the opening 7 holes, the match settled for a stretch. The teams traded pars from the 8th through 14th holes. GB&I tried to move reduce the deficit with a birdie on 15, but the US squad matched their effort, leaving the advantage to 2.
Fittingly the match concluded with more spectacular play. Shannon McWilliam pulled her drive on the 394 yard 16th, but hit a spectacular recovery to 7 feet. Andrea Lee responded with an approach to 3 feet and her eventual birdie sealed the match 3& 2 for the US squad.
With a sweep of the morning Four Ball matches, the Americans extended their lead to 7-2.