No one player and event are linked more closely than Carol Semple Thompson and the Curtis Cup. This was the 12th time Carol had played in the match, extending her record.
A few nay-sayers had complained the 53-year-old did not belong on the United States team. They griped that her many friends on the USGA Womens Committee had gone too far in granting Semple Thompson a spot on the squad. But like the grumpy trolls in the stories of Grimm and Andersen, those few critics were sent crawling back into their holes.
On this sultry Sunday afternoon, Carol Semple Thompson, the reigning Senior Womens Amateur Champion, made the putt that clinched the Cup for Team USA.
The Yanks had built what seemed to be an insurmountable lead over Great Britain and Ireland heading to the final stanza ' the six Sunday singles matches. The score was 8-4. All the Americans needed to do to maintain the cup they had won two years ago was win one match or halve two.
But GB&I put on a furious rally. With all six matches through at least nine holes, the Brits and Irish led four and were all square in the other two. Who would step up for the Americans?
In the second match out, Semple Thompson was playing 21-year-old Vikki Laing, considered the second best player for GB&I. The Scot was out-driving Carol by some 50 yards. Through seven holes, Vikki was 3-up.
But the golfing goddesses, the fairies, would not let this story end poorly for Carol. This Curtis Cup match was played at the Fox Chapel Golf Club in Western Pennsylvania, just 30 minutes from Semple Thompsons home. This is one of my favorite courses in the world, said the six-time national champion.
A crowd of over 500 fans, many of them family and friends of Carol, followed her every move. With her match, and her teams fortune in jeopardy, Semple Thompson put on quite a charge. She won No. 8 with a par and then birdied two of the next three holes to go from 3-down to 1-up.
She played the next five holes even par to carry that one-up lead to the 18th. When the two arrived at the final green, GB&I had already won two matches. USA led in just one other. If Carol could just hang on to win her match, the Americans would win the most prestigious international amateur event in womens golf.
Laing had hit her approach just 10 feet from the hole. Semple Thompson faced an uphill, right-to-left, 25-footer from the fringe.
I was just trying to get it close, she would say. With four of her teammates and their captain kneeling nearby, Semple Thompson produced a perfect roll. As the ball slowly made its way toward the hole, her young teammates rose to their feet. And when the ball, improbably, impossibly, dropped into the hole for birdie, Team USA had secured the Curtis Cup.
Her teammates screamed, yelled and ran to their hero. The crowd erupted into a roar normally heard only at Steelers games in these parts. For her part, Semple Thompson looked almost dazed. Like everyone else who had witnessed it, she was shocked by what she had just accomplished. I cant believe I made THE putt.
She smiled and laughed and hugged her comrades in clubs.
Carol Semple Thompson is at least 31 years older than all of her Curtis Cup teammates, older than some of their mothers. She looked so comfortable, so perfect, among them. She belonged.
Trolls and ogres be damned.