America lose the plot

Golf
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The cupboard is almost bare. The Americans, who were virtually unbeatable, have lost the Ryder Cup, the Walker Cup, the Curtis Cup and the plot. "I've thought about this a lot," Martha Lang, the captain of the US Curtis Cup team, said, "but there is no obvious reason for it. We haven't done very well, have we?"

Mickey Walker, the coach to the Ladies Golf Union, has also given it some thought and she identified key differences in approach between the teams following Great Britain and Ireland's emphatic 111/2-61/2 victory here.

"There was a great team spirit," Walker said. "We play county golf and the home inter- nationals, and are bound together. The Americans don't have that. With such a huge country, it is difficult for them. Our coaching and training is improving and our preparation for matches is thorough and more professional. We are also more flexible and adaptable. The Americans are used to everything being first class and we don't always have that over here."

GB and Ireland, who have lost only one of the last six Curtis Cup matches, mirrored the achievement of their counterparts in the men's amateur game. When the Walker Cup was won at Royal Porthcawl last year, GB and Ireland enlisted the support of the Ryder Cup captain, Bernard Gallacher. Here Mickey Walker assisted Ita Butler, the non-playing captain. By contrast, Martha Lang was on her own and, tactically, the Americans were outwitted. Walker now has the job of completing a Grand Slam when she captains Europe's women professionals in the Solheim Cup at St Pierre, Chepstow, in September.

The arithmetic in the Curtis Cup was simple: five of GB and Ireland's players, Alison Rose, Janice Moodie, Mhairi McKay, Elaine Ratcliffe, and Lisa Dermott, were unbeaten in the series of foursomes and singles. Not a single American had a 100 per cent record. In the match overall they were a combined 94 over par.

Rose, a 28-year-old bank employee from Stirling, was the outstanding competitor with four wins out of four. Rose, who was first reserve two years ago, was unstoppable in the singles on Saturday, beating Ellen Port, 6 and 5, with four birdies in five holes. "This was beyond my wildest dreams," Rose said. "I'd never experienced anything like that. I've only ever played in front of a few hundred people."

As she sank the putt that secured the Curtis Cup, a Scottish faction in the crowd of 7,000 broke into a chorus of "Flower of Scotland". They had plenty to sing about as two other Scots, Moodie and McKay, made handsome contributions. Team spirit will be forgotten this week as most of the players from both sides compete in the British women's amateur championship at Hoylake.

There was one other factor that contributed to GB and Ireland's success - the venue. Although there was no Irish player in the team (Ireland supplied the captain) and tickets were an exorbitant pounds 20, the response from the public provided the match with genuine atmosphere. Ireland has yet to stage the Ryder Cup but if and when it does, the Americans are in for a unique experience.

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