SANTA ANA PUEBLO – In an individual golf tournament, a five-stroke lead at the turn of the final day is pretty comfortable advantage.
Not so much in team competition.
The U.S. proved that quite emphatically Saturday in the finale of the second Women’s PGA Cup played this week at Twin Warriors Golf Club.
The event pitted five-woman teams from Canada, Great Britain/Ireland, Australia, Sweden, South Africa and defending champion U.S. The players are primarily teaching and club pros.
The top three scores each day was counted to each county’s overall score, with the U.S. finishing with a 1-under 656, two strokes ahead of runner-up Canada and five ahead of Great Britain/Ireland.
The Great Britain/Ireland team, spurred by Heather MacRae’s front-nine, 4-under 33, surged into the lead early on the day.
But, Joanna Coe, playing for the U.S. in that threesome, took it upon herself to do a little damage control.
“My player from Great Britain/Ireland was lighting it up. She was 4-under after nine, so I just wanted to keep up with her and don’t let that lead get too crazy,” she said. “That’s all I could really control from there.”
She made the turn with at 2-under and teammates Stephanie Connelly-Eiswerth at 2-under and Ashley Grier also at even at the turn to help keep the U.S.
U.S. captain Jim Richerson credited the team’s comeback to its ability to maintain its composure.
“Nobody panicked,” he said. “Everybody just played their game, concentrating on what we talked about all week which was one shot at a time, one hole at a time. Once we got to about 12 or 13, we were then one up at that point. 10, 11 and 12 were really challenging holes this whole week.”
That was really the only approach that was going to work, said Coe, who was the only returning player from the 2019 U.S. squad.
“We had great energy,” she said. “We all support each other and it’s truly a team. And it’s truly a team competition. Even in college golf, there’s a little something for the individual race. This was all about the team. So every single shot I hit, I thought, ‘Okay, this matters.'”
The key was getting through the first few holes of the back nine unscathed, Richerson said.
“They’re a little bit higher elevation, a little bit more exposed to the weather and wind,” he said. “The sight lines that you have to go because the way that the fairways doglegs and where you have to place everything have played really tricky the entire Cup. We made that stretch 10, 11, 12 I believe even par. That really helped. We picked up a couple shots there. The ladies played fantastic down the stretch to retain the cup.”
When Connelly-Eiswerth tapped in the final putt for the U.S. on 18, her teammates ran onto the green and greeted her with a water-bottle bath, but even that took a back seat to holding the championship cup.
“It was everything,” she said. “That is the goal. To qualify to be here and have a chance to play for it then to hold it was everything I thought it would be. It’s such a thrill. To play for your country and to do it well and do it with these awesome teammates; I’ve known most of these ladies since we were kids so it’s really awesome to share that with them.”