McKenna’s teen army
MARY McKenna was once the bright young sensation of Irish women's golf -- at the age of 19. That's why McKenna, one of the all-time greats of the ladies game in this country, smiles as she reflected on the selection of the 15-year-old Maguire twins, Lisa and Leona, for the Curtis Cup match against the USA in June.
McKenna will captain the team, which also includes 22-year old Danielle McVeigh of Royal County Down Ladies. Another Irish player, Stephanie Meadow of Royal Portrush is in the reserves.
"I only took up golf at 14," said McKenna. "I hadn't a clue what it was about. But, at 15, the twins are well used to winning Irish and international championships. Now they're deservedly on the Curtis Cup team.
"When I was 19, I was the young newcomer on the Irish international team -- and I was comfortably the youngest by about 10 years.
"It's a completely different era now. Danielle McVeigh, at 22, will be the oldest player on our Curtis Cup team. But it's great for Irish golf to have Danielle and the twins on the team and we will be doing everything we can to win the Cup in America," she said.
America's team also includes top-class teenagers who have broken the mould at a very young age.
Alexis Thompson, now 15, became the youngest player in history to qualify for the US Women's Open three years ago when she was 12.
Kimberly Kim from Hawaii is only 18, but played in the 2008 Curtis Cup match and set a record by winning the US Women's Amateur title when she was 14.
Kim is the only USA player who has previous Curtis Cup experience.
The Cup, first played in 1932, is a biennial match which up to 2008 at St Andrews, was a two-day event.
A change in format for that match made it a three-day competition, with four-balls and foursomes, and all team members playing singles on the final day.
It's appropriate that the Maguire twins play in this staging of the Cup, because it will be held at Essex County Club near Boston -- and that was the home club of the Curtis sisters, Margaret and Harriot, who founded the Cup.
The Curtis ladies were both US women's champions in their day and it's a tribute to their memory that the event they founded is such a prestigious competition, despite the dominance of the USA.
In 35 matches, the USA has won 26, halved three, and lost six. They have won the last six matches, with the GB and Ireland team last winning in 1996 when Ita Butler (nee Burke) was the captain. No Irish player was selected that year.
Practically all the top women professionals for decades have featured in the Curtis Cup, including Laura Davies, Dottie Pepper, Beth Daniel, Julie Inkster, Paula Creamer, Cristie Kerr and Michelle Wie.
Wie, who played in 2004 at the age of 14, holds the record as the youngest player in the event's history.
Ireland has had only 16 players on the GB and I team since 1932, although a number of them made multiple appearances, including Mary McKenna (9), Philomena Garvey (6), and Claire Dowling (nee Hourihane) who played in five matches and was captain in 2000.
Irish Curtis cup players up to 2008: Lillian Behan 1986; Ita Butler (Burke) 1966; Alison Coffey 2002; Claire Coughlan 2004-06 (2 series); Tara Delaney 2006; Claire Dowling (Hourihane) 1984-92 (5 series); Philomena Garvey 1948-60 (6 series); Martina Gillen 2006; Maureen Madill 1980; Tricia Mangan 2006; Mary McKenna 1970-86 (9 series); Suzanne O'Brien 2000; Eileen Rose Power (McDaid) 1994; Clarrie Reddan (Tiernan) 1938-48 (2 series); Claire Robinson (Nesbitt) 1980; Pat Walker 1934-38 (3 series).
Irish Captains: Mary McKenna 2008-2010; Ada O'Sullivan 2004-06; Claire Dowling (Hourihane) 2000; Maire O'Donnell 1982; Ita Butler (Burke) 1996; Dorothy 'Baba' Beck (Pym) 1954.
STRONG IRISH SQUAD FOR LYTHAM TROPHY
IRELAND sends a team laden with championship titles to compete in the prestigious Lytham Trophy at Royal Lytham this week-end.
Robbie Cannon (Laytown & Bettystown, Paul Cutler (Portstewart), Alan Dunbar (Rathmore) and Paul Dunne (Greystones) are the South of Ireland, East of Ireland, St Andrews Trophy and Irish Boys title holders respectively.
They are joined by Luke Lennox of Moyola Park, who was runner-up in the East of Ireland last year, international Dara Lernihan (Castle) and Reeve Whitson of Mourne.
The tournament begins on Friday and finishes on Sunday.
PHILLIPS STRIKES HOME BLOW FOR WOODBROOK
HOST club member Sue Phillips was popular winner of the keenly contested 36-hole Woodbrook Ladies Scratch Cup which was revived after an absence of 17 years.
A total of 63 players took part and St Anne's Anna Courtney led by a shot from Phillips and Louise Mernagh (Woodenbridge) after round one.
Phillips produced a storming finish in the second round, which included a hat-trick of birdies on holes 14 through 16 for a level par 74 and victory. Courtney finished second.
The Seniors winner was International Sheena McIlroy, current Centenary Year lady captain of Grange on 164. The U-21 winner was Tara Dunne of Wexford on 166.
KILKENNY ALL SET FOR 'SPECIAL' SCRATCH CUP
THE 47th staging of the Smithwicks Kilkenny Scratch Cup takes place at Kilkenny golf club on Saturday, May 15. It's a special event for the senior squad players at the club as Kilkenny are the current holders of the All-Ireland Barton Shield title.
Since its inception in 1964, many top amateurs have won this Scratch Cup including Joe Carr, Pat Mulcare, Liam McNamara, Mark Gannon, Padraig Harrington and Harrington's caddy Ronan Flood.
Kilkenny club members who have triumphed included the first ever winner Tom Duggan, three-time Irish champion Eddie Power and Pauric O'Rourke, who won the South of Ireland title three times.