Mehaffey and Maguire secure Curtis Cup glory
Published 13/06/2016 | 02:30
For just the 10th time in the illustrious history of the Curtis Cup, Great Britain and Ireland captured the trophy on a dramatic final day at Dun Laoghaire GC.
Trailing, 8-4 after Saturday's play, USA had it all to do and although they mounted a stirring comeback, the visitors fell just short of retaining their title.
The hosts dominated the early exchanges but just as USA looked like they could pull off a remarkable comeback, Meghan MacLaren held her nerve to seal a 2&1 victory, sealing an 11.5 to 8.5 overall win that will see the trophy stay on this side of the Atlantic.
Leona Maguire was in inspired form across a brilliant three days of golf and she won four points from a possible five.
Eighteen-year-old Olivia Mehaffey saw her rapidly growing reputation enhanced even further as she picked up 3.5 from five points, including a thrilling half point against Hannah O'Sullivan, the World's No 1 amateur player.
Maria Dunne (Skerries) who was playing in the Curtis Cup for the first time also impressed as she bounced back from a disappointing first day to pick two crucial points on Saturday.
USA's game plan was easy to see as they sent their top player O'Sullivan out first in a clear bid to try and get a point on the board early but the 18-year old, whose grandparents hail from Limerick and Tipperary, came up against Mehaffey, who put together a fine round.
Mehaffey had led by two at the turn but a three-putt bogey on 10 opened the door for O'Sullivan and she didn't need a second invitation to claw her way back into the match.
The large crowd that followed the pair for the entire round told you everything you needed to know about the quality of golf that was on display and the resilient O'Sullivan refused to lie down.
Mehaffey, ranked 8th in the world, had to rely on her putter to brilliantly save her twice on 14 and 17 but the Co Down native let her one-hole advantage slip on the last. O'Sullivan split the fairway with her tee-shot and perhaps feeling the pressure, Mehaffey slightly pushed hers to the right and found the rough.
Left with a difficult second, she was short with her approach but O'Sullivan didn't take advantage as she pushed her approach to the right of the green. Mehaffey's brilliant chip to five feet sparked a huge roar among the gallery but when O'Sullivan almost holed her third, the pressure was right back on her opponent.
A deathly silence fell around the 18th green and Mehaffey's putt for the match agonisingly lipped out as O'Sullivan's gutsy performance was rewarded.
In truth, neither girl deserved to lose and although Mehaffey looked visibly gutted, her half-point was important as her team-mates behind her finished off the job.
Maguire enjoyed a 3&2 victory over Sierra Brooks as the second ranked player in the world went head-to-head with the American girl sitting three places behind her in another high-class match.
The 21-year-old from Cavan, who drew a vocal following since Friday, is likely to turn professional in the near future and she was delighted to have won her second Curtis Cup medal in three appearances.
"It's just been an unbelievable week," Maguire said. "I knew the crowds would be big but I didn't expect this many people.
"Hearing the cheers around the course in the past few days has been very special. We could tell straight away if that was a GB&I cheer or not and that really just spurs everyone on.
"Going out today, that's what I was trying to do, get as many of those cheers going to the girls behind me. The home support has just been phenomenal. We couldn't have asked for anything more.
"I've been playing pretty well coming into this week. I just needed a few things to click and they did yesterday afternoon, right when I needed them to.
"I think when you're playing for something a lot bigger than yourself, that really helps.
"It's definitely one of the best teams I've ever been a part of, in any competition. We've just got along so well together and we had some really great pairings this week that we were comfortable with - we brought out the best in each other."