MANCHESTER-BY-THE-SEA, Mass. (AP) The Curtis Cup is home this weekend, and that is expected to make the United States even tougher to beat.
The 36th biennial competition between teams of eight amateur female golfers from the United States and Great Britian and Ireland will be held at Essex County Club. The Americans are riding a six-match winning streak and hold a 26-6-3 overall advantage.
Essex County Club also happens to be the home course of sisters Harriot and Margaret Curtis, who established the competition in 1932. The competition was also held at the club in 1938.
The three-day event begins Friday with three foursome matches in the morning and three more four-ball matches in the afternoon and concludes Sunday with eight singles matches.
Both squads are young, a sign of the times as golfers are turning professional at younger ages. With most participants "one and done" in the Curtis Cup and then turning professional, each squad has only one competition veteran - 18-year-old Kimberly Kim, of Pahoa, Hawaii, for the U.S., and 18-year-old Sally Watson, of Scotland, for GB&I.
U.S. captain Noreen Mohler, a member of the victorious 1978 Curtis Cup team, said she has ingrained into her players the history of the event and the significance of where it is being played in an effort to keep them focused.
"I don't want to be the captain who ends the streak," she said.
The U.S. team is led by Jennifer Song, 20, of Ann Arbor, Mich., the second female to win two USGA titles in the same year when she claimed the U.S. Women's Amateur and U.S. Women's Amateur Public Links titles in 2009. Another standout is 16-year-old Alexis Thompson, of Coral Springs, Fla., the winner of the 2008 U.S. Girls' Junior Amateur and the youngest player to qualify for the U.S. Women's Open. She qualified for the national championship at age 12 in 2007.
Song and Thompson are expected to turn pro in the near future. Both said they are completely focused on the Curtis Cup.
"All we're thinking about is kicking some butts out there," Song said.
Thompson doesn't expect her youth to be a problem.
"I don't think age matters," she said. "We're all great players and that's all that matters."
Rounding out the U.S. team are: Cydney Clanton, 20, of Concord, N.C.; Jennifer Johnson, 18, of La Quinta, Calif.; Stephanie Kono, 20, of Honolulu, Hawaii; Jessica Korda, 17, of Bradenton, Fla.; and Tiffany Lua, 19, of Rowland Heights, Calif.
Great Britain and Ireland captain Mary McKenna competed in the Curtis Cup nine times from 1970 to 1986. She remembers meeting Curtis Cup co-founder Harriot Curtis in 1970, when the competition was held at Brae Burn Country Club in Newton, Mass.
"The Curtis Cup is all about the friendships you make and you have forever," McKenna said.
McKenna believes the format favors her squad.
"The match play makes it wide open," she said.
Mohler and McKenna announced their pairings for Friday morning's opening foursomes: Watson and Rachel Jennings will take on Song and Johnson; GB&I's Hannah Barwood and Holly Clyburn will meet Thompson and Korda; and GB&I's oldest player, 22-year-old Danielle McVeigh and Leona Maguire, at 15 the youngest, will take on Clanton and Kono. Leona Maguire's twin sister, Lisa, is also a member of the GB&I team.
Essex County Club was designed by Donald Ross and, according to the Europeans, reminds them of some of their home courses.
Past Curtis Cup players include such notables as Dottie Pepper, Beth Daniel, Julie Inkster, Cristie Kerr, Paula Creamer and Michelle Wie.