Friday 24 January 2020

Lisa’s absence sparks Curtis Cup controversy

Lisa Maguire has been placed on the reserve list for selection at the Curtis Cup tournament
Lisa Maguire has been placed on the reserve list for selection at the Curtis Cup tournament

Liam Kelly

THE Ladies Golf Union Curtis Cup selectors have opened up a major controversy by omitting European Women's individual champion Lisa Maguire and selecting England's Charley Hull for the biennial match against the USA at Nairn, Scotland, from June 8-10.

Maguire (17) has been named as first reserve on the team, which includes her sister Leona, who is the British Ladies stroke-play champion, and US-based Stephanie Meadow.

Once the team was announced yesterday, it was clear that the LGU selectors had gone against the wishes of the Union in picking Charley Hull.

Hull (15), a fine golfer who was a certainty for the side, failed to attend last weekend's squad gathering at Nairn because she was going to America to prepare for this week's Kraft Nabisco on the LPGA Tour.

This is the LPGA's first Major of the season, and Hull was one of five amateurs who received an invitation to play in the tournament.

Hull accepted the opportunity and last month informed the LGU that she would not be at Nairn, despite attendance being mandatory for the 12 players on the panel.

The LGU response was that if the Scottish starlet did not participate at Nairn, she could not be considered for selection.

Susan Simpson, head of golf operations for the LGU, said at the time: "She won't be selected because all the players signed an undertaking to attend the team trial in March and, on the basis that she is not available for that, she won't be available for selection for the match.

"We made it plain to the players that if they didn't play in the training session they wouldn't play in the match. They signed an agreement."

Soon afterwards, the LGU offered a compromise, suggesting that Hull go to Nairn for the Friday and Saturday sessions, and depart for the USA on the Sunday. This opportunity was not availed of by Hull.

Tour professionals Caitriona Matthews and Karen Stupples had criticised the LGU stance. They felt this was a terrific opportunity for Hull to play at such a level and she should be excused.

Union officials didn't see it that way, as they considered the weekend activities were essential to their preparations for the Curtis Cup match.

DECISION

However, the selection panel had to make their decision on the eight-member team, and they were not prepared to ditch Hull. The selectors relied on the fact that they were independent of the LGU and were, thus, entitled to pick the team they wanted in order to present the strongest opposition to the Americans next June.

Hull, at number seven, the highest world-ranked player in the Curtis Cup squad, got their vote, despite her absence.

Meadow, based at the University of Alabama, had to get permission from her college to be released to travel across the Atlantic for the session at Nairn. Happily for her, the effort was worth it, as she joined Leona Maguire on the team.

Lisa, meanwhile, was left wondering what she has to do to get on the team.

The winner of the Spanish Amateur championship and the European Individual title in 2011, she is ranked higher in the world (56th) than three of the chosen players -- Pamela Pretswell (62), Kelly Tidy (109), and Bronte Law (225).

In terms of performances at last weekend's practice, where players were informed that a series of matches would count for the final selection, she won her singles and fourball matches.

Results of the series of matches between the players were not released by the LGU, but I'm sure they would have made interesting reading in relation to the team selection as an indicator of current form.

Given that this is a four-nations team, a degree of politics was always likely to come into the equation and perhaps three Irish players was one too much for the committee.

The Maguires became the youngest GB & I players to have played in the event when they played in the 2010 match at Essex County Club in Boston where GB & I lost 12.5 to 7.5.

Both were aged 15, but technically Leona holds the record as she was born 15 minutes before her twin sister.

Lisa wasn't the only big-name player disappointed at the selection.

Lauren Taylor, at 17, the youngest winner of the British Open Amateur championship, attended the weekend in Scotland, but could not play due to a neck injury. The selectors have decided not to pick Taylor because they don't feel the injury will recover in time for her to play at her best, even though the Curtis Cup won't be played for another 11 weeks.

Of the eight GB & I players selected, only Leona Maguire, Holly Clyburn and Pamela Pretswell have experience of playing in a Curtis Cup match.

Incidentally, Curtis Cup legend Mary McKenna of Ireland has been called in as a special adviser to the squad. She captained the Curtis Cup team in 2008 and 2010, as well as the GB & I Vagliano Cup teams in 2007 and 2009.

The GB & I team have not won the Curtis Cup since 1996 in Killarney when Ita Butler of Elm Park was captain.

CURTIS CUP TEAM

Amy Boulden (Conwy GC, age 18) Wales; Holly Clyburn (Woodhall Spa GC, 20) England; Charley Hull (Woburn GC, 16) England; Bronte Law (Bramhall GC, 17) England; Leona Maguire (Slieve Russell CC, 17) Ireland; Stephanie Meadow (Royal Portrush GC, 20) Ireland; Pamela Pretswell (Bothwell Castle GC, 22) Scotland; Kelly Tidy (Royal Birkdale GC, 20) England.

Reserves: 1 Lisa Maguire (Slieve Russell GC, 17) Ireland; 2 Georgia Hall (Remedy Oak GC, 15) England; 3 Becky Harries (Haverforwest GC, 23) Wales; 4 Kelsey MacDonald (Nairn Dunbar GC, 21) Scotland.

Team captain: Tegwen Matthews (Wales). Team Manager: Anna Hubbard (Wales).

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