Great Britain and Ireland aiming for Cup clean sweep

Come tomorrow evening and there could be something special to celebrate, in golfing circles, at least. Should Great Britain and Ireland win the Curtis Cup, against an American team containing the teenage sensation Michelle Wie, it would be the first time all four of the great team competitions have been held by teams from this side of the Atlantic.

Come tomorrow evening and there could be something special to celebrate, in golfing circles, at least. Should Great Britain and Ireland win the Curtis Cup, against an American team containing the teenage sensation Michelle Wie, it would be the first time all four of the great team competitions have been held by teams from this side of the Atlantic.

Once before, in 1989, Europe held the Ryder Cup and Great Britain and Ireland both the Walker Cup and the Curtis Cup for men and women amateurs respectively. Then, the following year, the Solheim Cup was introduced for women professionals and Europe were soundly thrashed.

The current winning sequence began with Sam Torrance's team at The Belfry regaining the Ryder Cup in 2002. Last September, in a glorious fortnight, Great Britain and Ireland won the Walker Cup for a third successive time and then Europe, with Annika Sorenstam leading the way, won the Solheim Cup.

Torrance and Sorenstam are responsible for two of the most cherished messages of support the home team have received, which in total amount to over 2,000. "We've received so much mail, so many good luck cards and e-mails, it's been overwhelming," said Ada O'Sullivan, the Great Britain and Ireland captain.

"It is such a big boost for the players to know that there is so much support out there for them. From the tone of some of the messages you would have thought we were going into battle - 'show them no mercy,' that sort of thing." This is not quite in keeping with the inscription on the Curtis Cup itself, which states the competition is to "stimulate friendly rivalry". Although not played officially until 1932, the match had its origins in a trip to Britain in 1905 made by a group of American golfers, which included the sisters Harriott and Margaret Curtis.

Margaret worked for the Red Cross in Paris during World War I, while Harriott did charitable work in their hometown of Boston. Their names survive alongside Samuel Ryder, George Herbert Walker and Karsten Solheim.

"It does add to the motivation," said O'Sullivan of capturing the transatlantic grand slam. "It's the one trophy that's missing. More than that, we realise we need to win or it will be 10 years since we last did when we next play."

The victory at Killarney in 1996 was part of a golden run of four victories in six matches with one tied. But America have claimed the last three matches.

"The pressure is on the GB and I team," said Martha Kirouac, the American captain. "My players understand the fact that this is the only cup held by America and we aim to keep it that way. There is fantastic motivation for both sides."

Record crowds for the event of 6,000 for each of the two days are expected and most will want to watch Wie, the 14-year-old schoolgirl who played against the world's best men on her native Hawaii earlier in the year. O'Sullivan mischievously said earlier in the week that all the attention on Wie might upset some of her team-mates, but with the visitors denying such allegations there was some quick backtracking yesterday.

"As far as we are concerned, she is one of eight on the team," O'Sullivan said of Wie. "I'll be interested to see where she plays in the line-up but there are seven other fantastic golfers on their team." One of the charms of the event is that both sides remain an unknown quantity until play begins and although much is known of Wie already, foursomes on a links in a team environment will all be new.

O'Sullivan was hoping that yesterday's decent wind would keep blowing over the weekend as her team have the advantage of having practised in all weather conditions on this course. But then Liz Janangelo, the American player, said: "I hope the wind picks up even more. It will make for some interesting golf and some fun shots."

Two of the home team have played in the match before, Emma Duggleby and Fame More, but, in Kent's Danielle Masters, the home captain has a player who not only gained the winning point when Great Britain and Ireland beat the Continent of Europe for the first time in 10 years but helps with the team spirit.

"She comes out with some great one-liners, she is always challenging me and mimicking my speeches," O'Sullivan said. "She gets people around her relaxed very quickly."

CURTIS CUP DETAILS

Overall: America 23 wins, Great Britain and Ireland 6 wins, three ties.

Last time: America claimed their third successive victory 11-7 at Fox Chapel in Pennsylvannia.

Format: Three foursomes in the morning and six singles in the afternoon on both days.

Teams: Great Britain and Ireland: Claire Coughlin, Emma Duggleby, Anna Highgate, Anne Laing, Danielle Masters, Shelley McKevitt, Fame More, Nicola Timmins. Captain: Ada O'Sullivan.

America: Erica Blasberg, Paula Creamer, Sarah Huarte, Liz Janangelo, Brittany Lang, Jane Park, Annie Thurman, Michelle Wie.

Captain: Martha Kirouac.

Today's opening foursomes: 8am McKevitt & Duggleby v Creamer & Park; 8.15 Timmins & Masters v Huarte & Thurman; 8.30 Laing & Coughlan v Lang & Wie.

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