After the US sweep in the morning Four Ball matches, Team GB&I was hoping for a spark to lead the team into the Sunday Singles matches. For the fourth consecutive session, GB&I led with the pairing of Olivia Mehaffey and Sophie Lamb, the de facto leadership of the visiting squad. US Captain Virginia Derby Grimes returned with her own powerful pairing of Lilia Vu and Jennifer Kupcho. The pair are currently stand #1 and #2, respectively, in the World Amateur Golf Rankings and successfully teamed in the Friday Four Ball matches 24 hours earlier (2 up victory).
Team USA provided another repeat pairing of Kristen Gillman (#8 WAGR) and Lauren Stephenson (#6 WAGR). The duo wowed the crowds with a -5 under performance on Friday, so the reprise was not unexpected. Annabell Fuller earned another session after her Saturday morning debut, and was teamed up with India Clyburn.
In the final match, GB&I’s elder statewoman, 24 year old Paula Grant teamed up with Shannon McWilliam to face Lucy Li and Sophia Schubert, who had rested in the Saturday morning session. McWilliam had a strong performance earlier in the day, but often had her birdie efforts matched by the US squad.
The GB&I team wanted to give their sizable flag-waving contingent some excitement after the morning sweep, and were successful early on. Olivia Mahaffey made a putt on the 1st to match Team USA’s opening birdie and Team USA found trouble on the 2nd tee to give the GB&I squad an early lead. After Sophie Lamb rolled in a birdie on the 4th after Mahaffey’s beautiful approach, the GB&I squad was 2 up and a buzz began to emerge from the GB&I fans.
In the match directly behind, Fuller & Clyburn played 3 excellent shots to leave a birdie putt on the 1st, but Gillman & Stephenson picked up right where they left off from Friday. Gillman’s long curling putt carried just enough weight to drop for an early 1 up lead. While the Americans dropped a stroke on the 2nd, Stephenson excited the fans with a chip-in for birdie from 10 yards off the green to restore the US lead. The squads each lost holes with bogey over the next several holes and the US only held a 1 up lead through the 7th.
With GB&I’s opening duo holding an early lead and the second match still in reach, there was some hope for the GB&I team to possibly win the session and make Sunday’s singles more compelling. Unfortunately, in the next hour, the hope of a winning session soon fell to the wayside.
While Lamb & Mehaffey maintained their lead, the second match was about to change dramatically. Kristen Gillman birdied the short 8th to extend the US lead to 2, and Team GB&I became ensnared in the cavernous front bunker on the short 9th. After bogeys on the 10th and 11th, Team GB&I had gone from a close match to suddenly 5 down.
In the anchor match of the day, Paula Grant and Shannon McWilliam had one of those days that we’ve all experienced in Foursome (alternate shot) play. Grant struggled off the tee and after losing the first 2 holes with bogey, the GB&I team lost the 3rd with a triple bogey 7 to Team USA’s double bogey 6th. By the 7th hole, Team GB&I was 6 down. Team USA gave one back on the 8th with an OB drive, but quickly reclaimed it with a birdie on the 9th. An unfortunate plugged lie on the 10th led to another double bogey for the GB&I squad. There was a brief smile after Paula Grant rolled in a birdie on the 11th, but Lucy Li & Sophia Schubert easily concluded the match on the 12th for a 7 & 5 victory.
This result, combined with the eventual 6 & 5 victory for Gillman & Stephenson, left the US in a commanding 9-2 lead.
At that point, the entire focus of the crowds shifted to the Lamb/Mahaffey vs Vu/Kupcho. Then, a beautiful thing happened. Instead of becoming quiet & dispirited, the GB&I crowds started becoming even more vocal, pulling for their emotional leaders to capture the first point of the disappointing Saturday.
The GB&I duo extended their lead to 3 up through the 11th after a few US missteps. They dropped a hole with a bogey on the 13th. On the par five 14th, both squads had perfect drives to set up potential eagle thoughts. Kupcho flushed a hybrid from 225 to the heart of the green, while Lamb slightly pushed her hybrid and caught a fairway bunker 30 yards short. The GB&I pair could barely escape the bunker to the front of the green, some 90+ feet from the back left pin. The Americans were only 35 feet away, but separated by a tricky spine running down the center of the green. This led to a US three putt for par, and when Mahaffey made a 10 footer to save the GB&I par, the crowds celebrated. The teams each missed birdie efforts on the 15th, and Team GB&I fought hard to save par on the 16th for another crucial halve. As both teams just missed their birdie efforts on the 17th, Vu & Kupcho conceded the par and a 2 & 1 victory to Lamb & Mahaffey, providing a small dose of celebration for the GB&I faithful.