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Americans win Curtis Cup 11.5-6.5

One of the reasons Paige Mackenzie held off going pro was to play in the Curtis Cup. The wait paid off on Sunday when she celebrated an American victory with her teammates.

Jennie Lee beat Melissa Reid 3 and 2 on Sunday to clinch the United States' fifth straight Curtis Cup victory, an 11 1/2 -6 1/2 decision over Britain and Ireland in the biennial amateur women's competition.

Lee, who just finished her freshman year at Duke, halved the 16th hole with her opponent from Derbyshire, England, to give the United States 9 1/2 points and the overall win at Bandon Dunes resort.

Mackenzie, from Yakima, Wash., defeated Tricia Mangan of Ennis, Ireland, 1-up, and Jane Park, who played at UCLA last season as a freshman, downed Tara Delaney of Ireland 3 and 2 for the final point total.

The 23-year-old Mackenzie was the most local of the players on the U.S. team. She just wrapped up her senior year at Washington and stayed an amateur to play in the Curtis Cup for captain Carol Semple Thompson.

She was following in the footsteps of her brother, Brock, who played in the 2003 Walker Cup -- the men's version of the competition.

It was worth it in the end.

"Oh my gosh yes," she said. "It was so amazing, this whole experience."

Britain and Ireland was down 7-2 after the first day, but charged back with 2 1/2 points in the three alternate-shot matches Sunday morning. That made for a tense afternoon.

Taylor Leon, who plays for Georgia, defeated Naomi Edwards of Yorkshire, England, 5 and 4 to move the Americans closer, but then Martina Gillen of Dublin downed Virginia Derby Grimes, the oldest player on the U.S. team at 42, 3 and 2, and Breanne Loucks of Wales beat Amanda McCurdy of El Dorado, Ariz., 3 and 2.

Leon was congratulated by Semple Thompson.

"That was great! Whew!" the captain said.

The wind picked up considerably in the afternoon on the par-71 Pacific Dunes course, carved into sand dunes on the Southern Oregon coast, about a five-hour drive from Portland. Gusts played with Mackenzie's hair ribbons.

"I heard on the (18th) fairway that Jennie won," said Mackenzie, who was followed by a large gallery wearing "Team Mackenzie" T-shirts. "The most important thing is coming home with the win and giving our team a point, even if it didn't matter."

The U.S. team needed just two more points Sunday to retain the Curtis Cup, but Britain and Ireland came out strong in the morning's alternate-shot foursome matches.

Loucks, the only player from Wales on her team, was paired with pal Reid. Despite the pressure on their team, Loucks and Reid were loose and relaxed in their 7-and-5 win over Lee and Jenny Suh, 7 and 5. Loucks mugged for a television crew, waving "Hiya!"

Park and Leon halved their match against Mangan and Delaney.

Gillen and Edwards edged Mackenzie and Duke's Amanda Blumenherst 1-up. The morning session narrowed the American lead to 7 1/2 -4 1/2 .

"We really enjoyed it this morning. We were really up for it this afternoon," Loucks said. "Martina won her match, which was fantastic, and still, until quite near the end we still looked like we could bring it back and still win."

Britain and Ireland was coached by Ada O'Sullivan of Ireland.

"It just didn't happen for us this afternoon, as simple as that," O'Sullivan said. "At one stage it was looking good, but after that it just turned around."

On Saturday, Mackenzie helped her team to a three-point lead in foursomes play, then won her individual match with a bogey-free round to lead the United States.

Mackenzie plans to play in the U.S. Women's Amateur championship at Pumpkin Ridge, just outside Portland, in less than two weeks. Then she intends to turn pro and is hoping for sponsor exemptions in some late-season tournaments.

She finished tied for 13th in the U.S. Women's Open, which she played as an amateur.

The Americans lead the Curtis series 25-6-3.

August 1, 2006

 




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