Scots' view can secure silverware

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The Independent Online

If Great Britain and Ireland retain the Curtis Cup against the United States over the next two days the team might be indebted to the musical tastes of Jonathan Butler. The 20 year old son of the non-playing captain, Ita Butler, has compiled a tape which is designed to raise the spirits of the players.

"It's very good," Mrs Butler said. "We sing along but I have to say that our bus driver isn't impressed." The tape contains Queen, Bob Marley and Tina Turner singing "Simply the Best". Whether the class of '96 is better than all the rest will be decided over two series of three foursomes and six singles.

The Curtis Cup (eight members per team) is the one played by female amateurs for a Revere Bowl donated by the Boston sisters, Margaret and Harriot Curtis. "We were not impressed by either the size or quality of the cup," Margaret once remarked, "yet it was the best that could be obtained in Boston at the time." Not that the concept excited Sir Ernest Holderness, a former British amateur champion, who wrote:"No one could expect a married woman with young children to win championships. That is a shocking thought. It would be enough ground for a divorce."

The first Curtis Cup match was held at Wentworth in 1932 and 15,000 spectators saw the United States gain a close victory. It is doubtful if anywhere near that number of people will pay pounds 20 to enter the gates of the Killarney and Fishing Club in Co Kerry, especially as the Great Britain and Ireland team has no Irishwoman.

However, it does have, in Ita Butler, an Irish captain. "I think I've got the best eight players," Butler said, "so I suppose sentiment can't come into it for something as important as the Curtis Cup. The team has a number of strengths. All are fine players and they get along with each other. It means you can build up a wonderful team spirit and that's very important."

American dominance in the Curtis Cup was once as pronounced as those other Transatlantic mismatches, the Ryder Cup and the Walker Cup, but the tide has turned. Europe regained the Ryder Cup in Rochester, New York, and Great Britain and Ireland won the Walker Cup at Royal Porthcawl last year.

There is a good chance that Britain and Ireland will take possession of more silverware this weekend. The United States, who had 13 successive victories in the biennial match from 1960, has lost three of the last five. Two years ago in Chattanooga the match ended in a 9-9 tie after Janice Moodie defeated the American veteran Carol Semple Thompson at the 18th in the final singles.

Semple Thompson, who is 47, is playing in her ninth Curtis Cup, an American record, and in the foursomes today she and Cristie Kerr take on Moodie and Mhairi McKay. Moodie and McKay, both Scots, have an insight into American golf. Moodie is a student at San Jose University while McKay, at 21 the youngest member of the team, has been a regular winner on the US collegiate circuit, representing Stanford University. McKay, an outstanding prospect, holds the ladies' record for the Old Course at St Andrews with a 67 in 1993.

" scholarships are available for girls and the women's amateur game in America is getting stronger every year," Martha Lang, the US captain said. "There are many better players than there were 10-15 years ago. All of them are hitting the ball further and playing a much stronger game." Few play a stronger game than Julie Hall. She has been on three winning sides and plays in her fifth and last Curtis Cup before becoming tournament secretary with the Ladies' Union.

On one of Kerry's most scenic courses (with a touch of the blarney they call it "Heaven's Reflex") where Nick Faldo won the Irish Open in 1991 and 1992, the ladies will receive invaluable local knowledge. Their caddies for the two-day competition are members of the Irish youth squad.

CURTIS CUP (Great Britain and Ireland v United States; Killarney): Tee- off times for today's opening foursomes (GB and Irl names first): 08.30: J Hall and L Educate v E Port and K Kuehne. 08.45: A Rose and L Dermott v M Jemsek and B Corrie-Keuhn. 09.00: J Moodie and M McKay v C Kerr and C Semple Thompson.