With the USA Curtis Cup Team holding a commanding five-point lead going into Sunday’s singles session, the only drama seemingly remaining for the final day of the 42nd Match at historic Merion Golf Club was when it would stop raining so the matches could start, which American would get the clinching point, and whether USA rookie Amari Avery would go a perfect 5-0-0.
The skies did finally brighten at 11:15 a.m. – nearly four hours after the scheduled start – and for a second consecutive year, Rachel Kuehn delivered the clinching point, this time in a 15½-4½ victory. It was the third consecutive triumph for the Americans and the third straight Match in which it dominated the eight singles matches.
The lone disappointment from a USA perspective came when Emily Price, of England, prevented Avery from joining the USA’s Stacy Lewis (2008) and Kristen Gillman (2018), and GB&I’s Bronte Law (2016) from a perfect 5-0-0 mark in a single Curtis Cup Match. The biennial competition changed formats from a two-day event to a three-day affair 14 years ago at St. Andrews in Scotland, when Lewis became the first to do so.
Nevertheless, the deep and talented American side won seven of the eight singles matches, improving its advantage to 42-22 in singles since 2008. The USA now holds a 31-8-3 overall record in the Match, which dates to 1932.
“It speaks to the depth of our team,” said Kuehn, of Asheville, N.C., a rising senior at Wake Forest. “We have eight really talented players.”
GB&I came into the three-day competition brimming with confidence. Six of the players returned from the five-point loss 9½ months ago at Conwy Golf Club in Wales, and seven had U.S. collegiate experience. But when the side failed to hold leads in two of the three foursomes matches on Saturday afternoon, a possible 7-5 deficit turned to 8½-3½ and all hopes of a comeback faded.
Needing only 1½ points to retain the Cup, USA captain Sarah Ingram wasn’t taking any chances, putting out world No. 1 and 2022 NCAA individual champion Rose Zhang, Kuehn and world No. 4 and 2021 NCAA champion Rachel Heck in the first three matches. She figured those three would set the tone for the day, and the strategy paid off.
Zhang, the 2020 U.S. Women’s Amateur champion and 2021 U.S. Girls’ Junior champ from Irvine, Calif., delivered with a 7-and-5 triumph over 2021 British Women’s Amateur champion Louise Duncan, of Scotland. That moved the USA within a half-point of retaining the Cup.
Kuehn and Heck jockeyed all afternoon to decide who would get the clinching point. Kuehn prevailed by 15 minutes when she closed out Caley McGinty, 2 and 1.
Not long after, she was hugging her mom, Brenda, a two-time Curtis Cup performer who also secured the clinching point in the 1998 Match at The Minikahda Club in Minneapolis. Rachel got the rare chance to repeat.
“I don’t think [clinching] crossed my mind,” said Kuehn. “The only goal was to go out and win my match.”
Last August, only Kuehn’s parents, Brenda and father, Eric, made the trip to Wales due to COVID-19 restrictions. This year, brothers Corrie and Taylor were in attendance along with other family and friends.
“It’s really cool,” added Kuehn. “To be able to share these memories with them, I am just so thankful I have such a supportive family.”
Heck closed out Kuehn’s Wake Forest roommate, Lauren Walsh, of the Republic of Ireland, 2 and 1, and moments later, Wake Forest graduate student Emilia Migliaccio defeated University of Florida standout and three-time GB&I Curtis Cup competitor Annabell Fuller, 6 and 5.
Jensen Castle, the reigning U.S. Women’s Amateur champion and a University of Kentucky standout, edged University of South Carolina first-team All-America Hannah Darling, of Scotland, 2 and 1. Darling came into the week as one of the GB&I stalwarts but went a disappointing 1-4.
Louisiana State University standout Latanna Stone, one of three first-time players for the USA, had the most dramatic victory when she stuffed a mid-iron approach to the 409-yard 18th hole to 2 feet for a winning birdie and a 1-up decision over Florida State star Charlotte Heath.
Incoming Stanford freshman Megha Ganne, of Holmdel, N.J., who traveled to Wales last August as an alternate after being the low amateur in the 2021 U.S. Women’s Open at The Olympic Club, never trailed in beating Florida State’s Amelia Williamson, of England, 2 and 1.
GB&I avoided its second 0-8 mark in singles when Kent State graduate Emily Price played the equivalent of 1-under-par golf – with the usual match-play concessions – in beating Avery, a rising sophomore at the University of Southern California. Price had faced Avery twice in foursomes this week and finally defeated the talented 18-year-old from Riverside, Calif., 4 and 3. She closed out Avery with a 5-foot birdie on the 15th hole.
“Amari is one of the best players in the world, let alone the United States,” said Price, who is headed to LPGA Tour Qualifying School in August. “I came out today and wanted to stick to my processes, and I did that and just played really, really well.”
“To be able to be a part of this amazing team and come out with a team win, we were not only representing ourselves, but we were representing our country, and we were representing each other. I feel like this win just shows the camaraderie and the amazing ability that we had within ourselves. It couldn't have ended any better.” – Rose Zhang summing up her second Curtis Cup victory
“Last year was definitely touch and go [in singles]. It was that way through the first nine and then the board started to turn red. The score looked more lopsided than it was. GB&I players never gave up and were fighting hard, and I didn’t want to fool around [with the lineup].” – USA captain Sarah Ingram on her lineup for Sunday singles
“I've always really loved this golf course. I love the fact that there's six holes of drama, six holes of comedy and six holes of tragedy. I think that is so interesting. I love the history of Bobby Jones completing his Grand Slam [in 1930], Ben Hogan [winning the 1950 U.S. Open]. The greens, the pureness of the putts, how they roll, and the speed and having to be really precise on their reads and things like that, I know they enjoyed it.” – Ingram on Merion
“First of all, this was one of the best weeks of my life on the golf course. I’ve known some of these girls on my team since I’ve been 10 years old, so that’s always fun. What I’ve learned is to just process matters, how you come into things, how you deal with certain situations. I think taking that away from this is something that’s going to be very valuable.” – Emily Price of England on the overall experience
“I talked to a lot of different little girls and little boys and asked them [if they were] going to get serious about [golf] now. And they're like, ‘Well, yeah.’ That's exactly what you come out here for, to see competitive, friendly golf, and competition at the highest level, be fierce but respectful. I think if you can provide that perspective for those kids, I think it's huge.” – Rachel Kuehn on making an impact
David Shefter is a senior staff writer for the USGA. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.