ARDMORE, Pa. — In the Curtis Cup’s 90-year history, there have only been two interruptions to the biennial schedule: World War II, the cancellation of play in 1940, 1942 and 1944, and COVID. The global pandemic has forced the 41st edition of the matches between the United States and Great Britain and Ireland to be delayed for a year, pushed back from August 2020 to August 2021.
At the time, it was disappointing for Americans anxious to represent their country, as well as for their captain Sarah LeBrun Ingram, a triple losing participant the three times she appeared. Little did they know the frustration would eventually culminate in a once-in-a-lifetime 10-month odyssey that culminated Sunday at the famed Merion Golf Club outside of Philadelphia.
Two hundred and eighty-eight days after rallying on the road to win 12½ to 7½ at Conwy Golf Club in Wales, the Americans shone on a rainy Sunday, winning seven of eight singles matches to claim an emphatic victory from 15½ to 4½. With a 2-1 win over Caley McGinty, Rachel Kuehn clinched the Cup deciding point, just as she did the year before.
“You did it again my brother!” said Emilia Migliaccio, her college teammate at Wake Forest, as they ran towards each other, hugging beside the 17th green in celebration.
Kuehn was far from the only returner on Team USA. Four other players – Migliaccio, Rachel Heck, Rose Zhang and Jensen Castle – have had back-to-back starts. And two consecutive victories. This group will stand out in the record books not only for playing in back-to-back unconventional events, but for winning them both in the shortest amount of time between games.
“It was a very quick turnaround, but I think it was a great opportunity because the core of the team kind of stayed the same,” Kuehn said after Sunday’s win. “We had a few new arrivals, but it just gave us a chance to get to know each other better.”
Those newcomers included Amari Avery, Latanna Stone and, technically, Megha Ganne, who was an alternate in 2021 and traveled with the team. The trio has merged seamlessly with the core of the team, as many players have known each other from years of junior and amateur golf.
“[At Conwy] we were a bit isolated [due to COVID]. We bonded really well there,” Ingram said as her players hoisted the Curtis Cup trophy behind her. “We didn’t have parents there, we didn’t have a lot of spectators of our own, we had to be together there. I think we were able to carry that over to this year. Amari and Latanna fit in perfectly. and were welcomed with open arms.”
In last year’s singles session, Ingram placed Zhang, the top female amateur in the world, in the final pair. Her win didn’t impact the final result as the scoreboard had already turned red by the time the 19-year-old finished. This year, Ingram gave Zhang a chance for her match to influence her teammates, knocking her out.
“GB&I is tough, and they weren’t going to give up, so I wanted to make sure we had a good opening,” Ingram said. Zhang made Ingram’s decision golden when she beat British Women’s Amateur Champion Louise Duncan, 7 and 5.
From there, Team USA rolled. Heck beat Lauren Walsh, 2 and 1. Castle beat Hannah Darling by the same score. Stone won 1 against Charlotte Heath. Migliaccio won 6 and 5 over Annabell Fuller, Ganne beat Amelia Williamson, 2 and 1. And while Avery was the only American to lose on Sunday, she was 4-0 in the first two days of the event, making sure she had a lasting impact on the win.
There was also something fitting that this unprecedented week took place at Merion, the venue that has hosted more USGA Championships than any other (19 and counting). The property couldn’t feel more revered with its red wicker baskets and themed six-hole sections. Merion is divided into three “acts”, like a play. The long and challenging first six holes are ‘The Drama’, while the light and birdie-capable middle stretch is ‘The Comedy’. Holes 14 to 18, which mark an abrupt change of mood with significant elevation changes and winding fairways, are “The Tragedy”. And as we’ve seen this week with some wire finishing touches, the name is apt.
The 2024 Curtis Cup will take place at Sunningdale Golf Club, dates to be determined. Until then, a new group of Americans will represent their country and a new captain. They will undoubtedly create their own memories. But they are unlikely to have the emotional connection that 2021-22 Americans will bring going forward.