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Youthful GB&I Curtis Cup side can put a halt to American backlash

FOR this week's opening bletheration, here's a conversation I had with the Doctor the other day as I popped in for a quick once over of all the various cogs and pulleys that keep this shoogling structure of a body rattling away on a daily basis.

Charley Hull was subject to much selection wrangling last year, but common sense has prevailed this time. Picture: Getty Sport
Charley Hull was subject to much selection wrangling last year, but common sense has prevailed this time. Picture: Getty Sport

"What blood group are you?" he asked. "A," came the reply. "I said what blood group are you?" the Doc repeated. "O," I responded. "B." It was the kind of awkward, bumbling exchange usually reserved for a father meeting his teenage daughter's first boyfriend and it ended with this correspondent eventually getting a ruddy great needle thrust into a vein.

Of course, we all need a shot in the arm at some point. It's a bit like the Curtis Cup, which swings into action this week in St Louis. Prior to Great Britain & Ireland's thrilling victory in the previous encounter with the United States at Nairn in 2012, the biennial battle seemed to have all the vitality of an anaemic.

Seven defeats in a row, and just six wins for GB&I since the transatlantic scuffle was first contested in 1932 meant the whole affair was as lop-sided as Long John Silver on a listing ship.

It looked as if GB&I would sink without trace in the 2012 meeting when they were whitewashed 4-0 in the opening session of foursomes. We all know what happened, though.

From the Calamity Cup to the Comeback Cup, the GB&I girls turned it around superbly, battling to a memorable 10½-9½ victory in what was one of the highlights of the golfing season. The significance of the triumph was considerable.

The success breathed new life into the match and gave it a much-needed injection of vigour and a renewed competitive edge. Let's hope it will remain alive and kicking this week. A GB&I side has tasted victory on American soil only once and that came back in 1986 when a side featuring the Scottish amateur great Belle Robertson swept to a 13-5 win at Prairie Dunes.

History is certainly not on the visitors' side but the opportunity to write themselves into those history books will be a driving factor.

Not long after the Curtis Cup win two years ago, Europe's male professionals won the Ryder Cup at Medinah. With GB&I's amateur men already in possession of the Walker Cup from 2011 and Europe's women victorious in that year's Solheim Cup, it meant all four trans-Atlantic golfing team trophies were resting proudly on this side of the pond.

The American backlash has begun, mind you. The Walker Cup was snatched back in emphatic style last September and now they have their eyes on the Curtis Cup.

There may have been a time when the travelling party from these shores was overawed by the prospect of taking on the might of the USA in their own backyard but the eight girls making the trip across the pond to defend the silverware this weekend should have nothing to fear. Four of them - Stephanie Meadow, Bronte Law, Charlotte Thomas and young Scot, Gemma Dryburgh - are regular campaigners on the US college circuit while the rest, including the second Scottish call-up, Eilidh Briggs, have a confidence and a winning mentality that should stand them in good stead following excellent seasons on the amateur scene.

We should be thankful, after the embarrassing selection palaver that marred the build up to the 2012 encounter, that the Ladies' Golf Union now has a more sensible policy in place which reflects the changing face of the amateur scene. The top four players on the world rankings form the basis of the side, with two coming from an LGU order of merit and the remaining two being chosen as, effectively, wild cards. Two years ago, the selection panel, who picked all eight members, seemed hell bent on sticking by a rigid rule that stated that potential team members had to attend a team trial prior to the match at Nairn.

Charley Hull, one of the brightest talents in the game who has since gone on to shine on the professional stage, had accepted an invitation to play in a women's major on the LPGA Tour that same week and the LGU declared she would, therefore, not be picked for the Curtis Cup.

It seemed to be a classic case of cutting off the nose to spite the face but, after much highly-publicised to-ing and fro-ing, common sense prevailed and Hull was drafted in.

What we must hope prevails this week is an exhibition in everything that is good about women's golf in 2014. There is a youthful, flourishing vibrancy about the game on both sides of the Atlantic and that can be gleaned from a quick glance at the line-ups. Team USA is made up of two 21-year-olds, four 19-year-olds and two 18-year-olds, while the oldest player in the GB&I side is the 22-year-old Meadow.

The aforementioned Hull was just 16 years old when she played her part in the Curtis Cup conquest of 2012.

A year later she was helping Europe win the Solheim Cup on American turf for the first time as her rapid rise continued.

The current crop of GB&I girls do not have far to look for inspiration.

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