By David Shefter, Senior Staff Writer, USGA
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.
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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.”