NAIRN, Scotland – Britain and Ireland captain Tegwen Matthews is confident her eight-woman team can halt the United States' domination of the biennial Curtis Cup, which begins Friday.
The 37th edition of the event between the two teams of female amateur golfers opens with three foursomes matches on the Nairn Golf Club course, east of Inverness in northern Scotland.
Since the inaugural encounter in 1932, the U.S. has won 28 of the 36 Curtis Cups contested, including the past seven.
Matthews, who played in four prior Curtis Cup matches, believes the key to winning back the trophy is getting off to a good start.
''When you're only playing 18 holes you have to get off to a quick start and my team needs to be aware the first three to four holes are very crucial to the whole match,'' she said. ''That's why I've had the girls play those holes up-and-down goodness knows how many times this week. It's the same with the last two to three holes as I've also had them play those last few holes as they are very strong closing holes.''
In a surprise, Charley Hull of England, the world's leading women's amateur, was left out of the opening round of matches. The 16-year-old is the youngest of all 16 women competing and, at No. 4 in the world, she is also the highest ranked.
''There's no particular reason (for Hull's omission) as everyone is playing particular well,'' captain Tegwen Matthews said. ''I need fresh legs every round, so the fact that Charley is not playing in the morning means absolute nothing.''
There was controversy earlier this year when Hull was not on the British and Irish team training squad after accepting an invitation to compete in the first women's major championship of 2012. But after Hull played at the LPGA Kraft Nabisco in California, she was put back on the squad.
In the opening foursomes: American pair Austin Ernst and Brooke Pancake take on Kelly Tidy and Amy Boulden, US duo Amy Anderson and Tiffany Lua meet Holly Clyburn and Bronte Law, and teammates Lindy Duncan and Lisa McCloskey play Leona Maguire and Stephanie Meadow.
U.S. captain Patricia Cornett revealed her team has been inundated with messages of support including one from former President George H.W. Bush.
However Cornett, who played in the 1978 winning team and also the 1988 losing side, was not as outspoken as her rival.
''The matches have always been quite competitive and yes, the Americans have tended to win in the recent past but there was a time back, and I was a member of that team in 1988, when GB&I were winning,'' Cornett said.
''Whenever the matches are over here advantage-wise GB&I are favorites and this year GB&I has a terrific team, so I am looking forward to very competitive matches.''
Leading the Americans is Lindy Duncan of Fort Lauderdale, Fla. The 21-year old No. 8-ranked player made the halfway cut in last year's U.S. Women's Open.
But on the U.S. side just one, 21-year old Brooke Pancake of Chattanooga, Tenn., is set to turn professional immediately after Sunday's final round of matches.
''I've been asked a lot if I am going to wait to play in a number of other big amateur events later this year before I turn pro, but I could not think of a better way to end my amateur career than with the Curtis Cup and here in Scotland, and the home of golf,'' Pancake said.
''I have been extremely blessed to have some of the doors open for me being an amateur and hopefully many more will open for me after Sunday as a professional.''
GB&I: Tegwen Matthews (captain, Wales), Amy Boulden (Wales), Holly Clyburn (England), Charley Hull (England), Bronte Hall( England), Leona Maguire (Ireland), Stephanie Meadow (Northern Ireland), Pamela Pretswell (Scotland), Kelly Tidy (England)
United States: Patricia Cornett (captain), Amy Anderson, Lindy Duncan, Austin Ernst, Tiffany Lua, Lisa McCloskey, Brooke Pancake, Erica Popson, Emily Tubert