WEST POINT, MISS. – American teams have faltered in the last three Ryder Cup matches and in the last two Solheim Cups, but it was Team USA that came through with the win today at the ISPS Handa Cup. The Americans defeated the World Team 28-20 at Old Waverly Golf Club.
The Americans had struggled in the previous two Handa Cups – an annual team competition between American-born and international members of the LPGA Legends Tour age 45 and over. An energized World Team earned a tie with the Americans at the 2012 event, and won it for the first time outright last year.
But this year’s ninth staging was up for grabs after the teams battled to a 12-12 tie following Saturday’s best-ball and alternate-shot matches. The World Team entered today’s singles determined to defend the Cup, while the Americans -- acutely aware their compatriots had lost the Ryder Cup earlier in the day -- were ready to win back the Cup.
By day’s end, Team USA once again lifted the Handa Cup with its victory over the World Team. The win improved the Americans’ record to 7-1-1 in the series.
“It’s been a fun week,’’ said Team USA captain and Hall of Famer Nancy Lopez. “This competition was special and we had to really play well to win.’’
Reigning Scottish Women’s Open champion Trish Johnson was first out for the World Team and won her match against Laurie Rinker, winner of The Legends Championship last month. LPGA Hall of Famer Beth Daniel put two points on the board for the Americans with her win over Canada’s Lorie Kane in the second match.
The third match – a much-anticipated duel between big-hitting Laura Davies of England and Juli Inkster, making her Legends Tour debut at age 54 – featured two longtime Solheim Cup opponents.
Davies held a one-shot lead over Inkster before her tee shot sailed left at No. 9 and was declared lost. The Briton took a bogey to Inkster’s birdie on that hole and Inkster never trailed again in the match. Inkster matched Johnson as the low scorer in Sunday’s singles, touring Old Waverly Golf Club at 5-under par 67.
“I had a lot of chances,’’ said Inkster, winning on the same course where she won the 1999 U.S. Women’s Open Championship. “I had three-putted for bogey at the fifth and three-putted for double bogey at the seventh, so Laura owed me a little and I made some putts on the back nine. It all works out.’’
Inkster’s win over Davies gave Team USA a 16-14 lead. The Americans led in six of the remaining nine matches and were tied in two others.
The World Team fought back, however, and trimmed the Americans’ lead to 19-17, but with some scrambling to the finish, Team USA managed to stay ahead. Pat Bradley carded a double bogey on the last hole, but it netted a point for a tied match with Alison Nicholas. That kept Team USA ahead at 24-18.
“If ever there were a good double bogey, that was it,’’ said Bradley, a member of the LPGA’s Hall of Fame. “I wanted to show all the youngsters here that you should never give up.’’
It was Wisconsin native Sherri Steinhauer who finally clinched the Handa Cup for the Americans with a 30-foot putt on the last hole against Alicia Dibos of Peru.
“I remember some advice I received when we were way down,’’ said Steinhauer, known for her putting touch throughout her LPGA career. “Get your point, get your point, get your point! My goal was just to get my point.’’
Steinhauer hadn’t played a competitive round since The Legends Championship in August at French Lick, Ind. She suffered torn cartilage in her ribs and wasn’t sure if she could play this week at Old Waverly, but Steinhauer didn’t want to miss the event that reminded her of her days as a member of the U.S. Solheim Cup Team.
“This was all about playing as a team, and our team just jelled,” she said. “Any time you play for your country, you want to play well.’’
Here are the 2014 Handa Cup results:
Saturday: 12-12 tie after nines holes of best-ball format, and nine holes of modified alternate-shot team matches.
Sunday: Singles (stroke play) matches:
MATCH 1: World Team Trish Johnson (67) d. Team USA Laurie Rinker (71) - 2 points World
MATCH 2: Team USA Beth Daniel (72) d. World Team Lorie Kane (74) - 2 points USA
MATCH 3: Team USA Juli Inkster (67) d. World Team Laura Davies (68) - 2 points USA
MATCH 4: World Team Wendy Doolan (69) d. Team USA Val Skinner (80) – 2 points World
MATCH 5: Team USA Barb Mucha (71) d. World Team Dawn Coe-Jones (73) - 2 points USA
MATCH 6: World Team Jenny Lidback (74) tied Team USA Sherri Turner (74) - 1 point each
MATCH 7: Team USA Christa Johnson (71) d. World Team Mieko Nomura (75) - 2 points USA
MATCH 8: Team USA Meg Mallon (68) d. World Team Jane Crafter (70) - 2 points USA
MATCH 9: World Team Alison Nicholas (74) tied Team USA Pat Bradley (74) - 1 point each
MATCH 10: Team USA Sherri Steinhauer (69) d. World Team Alicia Dibos (70) - 2 points USA
MATCH 11: World Team Liselotte Neumann (68) d. Team USA Rosie Jones (70) - 2 points World
MATCH 12: Team USA Nancy Scranton (74) d. World Team Helen Alfredsson (75) - 2 points USA
FINAL SCORE: USA 28 - WORLD 20