With flair, Spain claims first International Crown


OWINGS MILLS, Md. – Beatriz Recari sized up the International Crown trophy during the gala on the eve of the inaugural matches and made a bold claim.

“We’re taking that home with us,” Recari said.

Recari was having fun, but she wasn’t kidding. The Spaniards were on a mission. They won Sunday with bravado that would have made the late match-play maestro Seve Ballesteros proud of his fellow Spaniards.

With a staggering sweep of all four of its singles matches on Sunday, Spain ran away with the first playing of the international team event. Recari, Carlota Ciganda, Belen Mozo and Azahara Munoz all closed out their singles victories before reaching the 18th green.

“We just like to trash talk,” Mozo cracked good-naturedly. “It’s how we are. We accept trash talk back. We like it, we embrace it. It’s how competitive we are.”

The quartet paraded away from Caves Valley Golf Club with the trophy and their individual sterling silver crowns as part of their winner’s haul.

“It means so much to us, for our country,” Recari said. “We feel the flag. Our blood boils when we hear the anthem, and when we see the flag. That's for you to have an idea of what it means for us. We're just so stoked that we did it, and that we can take this trophy back home.”

Mozo clinched the crown, rolling in a 12-foot birdie putt at the 16th hole to close out a 3-and-2 victory against Thailand’s Moriya Jutanugarn with two matches still on the course.

“I had absolutely no idea,” Mozo said, not knowing what was on the line as it was happening. “I just wanted to make the putt. You don’t understand how much.”

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Ciganda made a strong statement early. Insisting she be the first Spaniard sent out in singles, Ciganda came out on fire against Korea’s Na Yeon Choi, a formidable competitor and winner of the 2012 U.S. Women’s Open. Ciganda birdied the first on her way to an 8-and-6 thrashing of Choi. She birdied seven of 12 holes and didn’t lose a single one.

“The first time I looked up at the leaderboard was the fifth hole and Carlota was already 5 up,” Munoz said.

The Spaniards claimed 15 points over the four-day competition, with a victory worth two points and a halved match worth a point. Sweden finished second with 11 points with Korea and Japan tying for third with 10 points each.

Motivation was never lacking for the Spaniards, who arrived believing they were better than the fifth seed they carried. They really found fuel, though, after losing both of their matches to the Americans on Friday, which dropped them from first to last in Pool A.

“I think that worked in our favor, because we were so upset that we were determined that we were going to win every single point left for the rest of the tournament,” Recari said.

The Spaniards made good on their bold claims once more. After the Americans swept them, they didn’t lose another match, winning all of their Saturday fourballs and their Sunday singles.

Leaving the 18th hole after the American sweep, Mozo told LPGA chief communications officer Kraig Kann to “keep shining my crown.” She carried that sterling silver crown with her into the media center after the victory. They all did.

“We are named now the best country in the world and that is huge,” Munoz said. “So, hopefully, golf in Spain is getting more and more popular, but I think this is really, really, really going to help.”

Spain arrived believing it had an advantage in a team format because its members have played so much together in team events. They’re all between ages 24 and 27. They all grew up playing together under the Spanish Golf Federation. They won European Amateur Team Championships together.

Ciganda, Munoz and Recari helped the European Solheim Cup team beat the Americans for the first time on American soil last year. Ciganda and Munoz even won the NCAA Championship together in 2009 as teammates at Arizona State, playing here at Caves Valley.

“I think the reason why we're so good is because we have the Spanish Federation that has supported us since day one,” Mozo said. “We have an amazing program, and we have been raised playing together at training camps, tournaments around Europe, and that was our thing.”

They have their crowns to prove it.