The United States of America produced win the World Amateur Championship by 10 shots and take home the Espirito Santo Trophy for the first time since 1998.
Ireland entered the closing round with an outside chance of taking a medal but they failed to gain ground and an even par return for the day left them finishing in a tie for 11th place. Japan, second on 19 under, and Republic of Korea, one shot further back in third, filled the medal positions.
It may not have been the result Ireland dreamed about yet there remained a sense of satisfaction about the performance. Winning bronze two years ago set a new bar for Irish ladies golf, which makes it easy to forget that this week’s display matched Ireland’s previous best of tied 11th in 2010.
“I think they’re right up there with the best in the world, which is great,” said team captain Danielle McVeigh, who has been perceptive in her assessments all through the championship.
Nevertheless, those positive reflections were tinged with some regret.
“We were up there close but just the second day we didn’t get things going and that kind of put us behind for the whole week,” said Annabel Wilson, whose final round 72 (-1) was Ireland’s best score on the less demanding O’Meara Course.
Cumulatively, the champions USA were 26 under par on the O’Meara whereas Ireland were plus one. By contrast, Ireland were two shots better than the Americans on the Montgomerie.
“To go four under on the Monty was pretty good,” Olivia Mehaffey reflected. “Disappointing on the O’Meara. It was out there. I really, really struggled with the flat stick. I lost my feel and that’s the way it goes sometimes when you chase it.”
Mehaffey’s contribution was immense. Two rounds of 70 on the Montgomerie kept Ireland in the hunt for a medal and it was a shame that her putter went cold when the scoring was red hot.
After nine straight pars on the front nine, Mehaffey’s frustrations were compounded by a double bogey at the 10th. In typical fashion, she responded immediately and birdied the next. Mehaffey had to wait until 17 to gain another but her day ended with a bogey.
“Honestly, that’s only the second round I’ve had where I lost my feel completely, and it’s so hard mentally because you don’t want to putt it two feet past because you don’t know if you’re going to make it,” said Mehaffey, who signed for 74 (+1).
By that stage, Wilson had returned her card. Pausing for reflection, the 17-year-old from Lurgan recalled thoughts from the previous championship in Mexico.
“We got bronze medal two years ago and that was kind of the kickstart for me, realising: ‘hold on, we can compete here with the big dogs no problem,'” said Wilson.
Although comfortable in their environment, the top end of a world championship leaderboard is still relatively new territory for Ireland. In winning, the US were victorious for the 14th time, delivering on their pre-championship goal to ‘bring it home.’
“This is the biggest achievement I will ever have in golf,” said the US captain Stasia Collins. “They will always be known as the gold medal winners for the 2018 World Amateur Team Championships — no one can take that away from us.”
Five shots clear going into the last round, the US coasted home by 10. Kristen Gillman carded 67 and world number one Jennifer Kupcho shot 69 as Korea dropped from second to third with Japan taking silver. There was some consolation for Korea’s Ayean Cho, who finished as the leading individual on 17 under.
The World Amateur Team Championships are being hosted by the ILGU and GUI with support from Sport Ireland.
Photographs: Pat Cashman