USA go big to underline their women's amateur dominance
Korea’s Cho who finished the week on the best individual score of 17-under par
The USA team (from left) Lilia Vu, Stasia Collins (Team Captain), Jennifer Kupcho and Kristen Gillman at Carton House. Photograph: Pat Cashman
The spectators moved towards the back of the green at the 13th hole on the O’Meara course. American Jennifer Kupcho and Korean Ayean Cho looked down from the top of the hill, their red and white clothing making them indistinguishable.
The first ball, a pink one was Cho. It cleared the dip at the front of the green and flew through the light rough to the left of the green and out the back.
Kupcho’s drive bounced on the down slope and ripped across the baise all the way through the par four.
It was a microcosm of the week at the World Amateur Team Championships at Carton House. When America and Korea go large, they gobble up the field.
So it was. The Americans hit big and smiled bigger and pulverised the opposition for their first win in 20 years. They said they were in Ireland to bring home the Espirito Santo Trophy and they did it by crushing the field by 10 shots.
The Koreans, error free and carrying an almost fearful but determined mien, ended up third in a competition they have dominated in recent years, allowing Japan sneak into second place. But it was Cho who finished the week on the best individual score of 17-under par, including a second round 64.
O’Meara, or Montgomerie, it didn’t matter. The US arrived with the best three amateur players in the world, Kupcho, US amateur champion Gillman and Lilia Vu and left the draw scrambling for scraps of leftovers.
Their team score of 29 under was 10 shots better than Japan and 11 better than Korea. Game Ireland tumbled back from fourth going into the final round to tied 11th.
Going big in golf is going low and Ireland, after their bronze medal of two years ago in Mexico, couldn’t manage to rip birdies from the course on a beautiful final scoring day.
Kupcho was 15-under par for the four days, Ireland’s best, Arizona Collegiate player Olivia Mehaffey three-under par. But there were no Irish tears. Disappointment yes. Maybe too a sense of pressure to perform on demand on the easier O’Meara course might have displaced Irish focus.
The weekend conundrum was Ireland scored better on the tougher Montgomerie strip, shooting 283 in their two visits but were 10 shots worse on the more appealing O’Meara track.
Irish scores on the first difficult breezy day on the heavily bunkered Montgomerie was their best of the four rounds with Mehaffey and Wilson coming home in 70 and 71 respectively. Go figure.
Lebanon were 140 over par for the week, Ukraine 101 over and Tunisia 91 over on the wrong side of par. A championship of two halves, different motives, alternative goals.
The 70 year-old Beatriz Arenas playing for Guatemala was 52 over for her week and there were higher scores than hers. But there were no joyless frowns from the mother of five, the grandmother of 16.
The scratch golfer was competing in her 12th World Amateur Team Championship. Playing with a black ribbon in her hat for the victims of the volcano that devastated her country in June, she first rocked up to compete in the event at Pinehurst in 1980.
“It’s part of my life. I think competing maintains me to stay healthy and strong and with my mind strong,” said the 70-year-old, who will be playing in The Grange in the Irish Seniors this week.
“My mother got me into this beautiful sport when I was eight. She was a horseback rider and tennis player and golfer. She always said I’m going to leave golf, not golf leave me. The other sports left her. All those things have given me strength in my life.
“I am 70 years of age. I don’t take liquor and I never get a car (buggy) playing golf. Never. I walk and walk. Even if I am tired I still walk.”
From 70 to 17 and Lurgan teen Annabel Wilson, who will go to UCLA next September to start on the collegiate road towards a professional career, or, 20-year-old Mehaffey, or, Kupcho who will turn professional over the next 12 months, there were different stories.
“Annabel, she’s proved she’s a world class golfer this week,” said Ireland team captain Danielle McVeigh. “She’s incredibly smart on the golf course. And she has so much natural talent. She’s definitely one to watch.”
Paula Grant chimed in. “Och, she’s still only a wee baby.”
So the women depart and the men’s teams arrive for The Eisenhower Trophy beginning on Wednesday. The USA have the world number one Brandon Thornberry, the world number two Justin Suh, the world number three Colin Morikawa and the world number seven Cole Hammer.
Thornberry isn’t travelling. Large exhale please. But the US are here to bring it home. And you know when America go big...