USGA Museum Moment: The 1934 Curtis Cup Match Poster

Jan 14, 2010

By David Shefter, USGA

Far Hills, N.J. - When the inaugural Curtis Cup Match took place in 1932, a reported 15,000 spectators ventured to Wentworth (England) Golf Club to see the top American female amateurs take on their counterparts from the Great Britain and Ireland.

Two years later, the biennial competition came to U.S. soil for the first time and organizers at Chevy Chase (Md.) Club decided to promote this major event with a poster. The colorful piece of artwork featured a female golfer with the Stars and Stripes and Union Jack flags in the background. Admission for the two-day competition on Sept. 27-28 was just $1.10. The poster, created by an unidentified artist, is one of many pieces of golf art showcased at the USGA Museum in Far Hills, N.J.

The GB&I team, captained by Doris Chambers, featured three holdovers from the squad that dropped a 5½ -3½ decision in 1932. But coming to America was hardly a new experience for a couple of the competitors, including Diana Fishwick, who had claimed the 1933 Florida West Coast Championship. Chambers, the 1932 Scottish Ladies runner-up, had also previously been to the U.S. in 1926.

Eager to beat the Americans, Chambers tried her best to keep foursome (alternate shot) pairings a secret. It was as if the Great Britain and Ireland team was on a clandestine mission.

An account in The New York American prior to the competition read, “The seven members of the British team practiced rather desultory … hitting two and three balls and pairing themselves so that no indication of their pairings could be had.”

It’s not as if the British team was devoid of talent. Fishwick had claimed the 1930 British Ladies Open Amateur and the 1932 English Closed Championship. She also had defeated American stalwart Maureen Orcutt, 4 and 3, in singles at the 1932 Curtis Cup Match.

Molly Gourlay, another holdover from the ’32 Match, had won the English Closed Championship in 1926 and ’29 as well as the British Ladies Open Amateur in 1925 and ’26. She also was a three-time French Open titlist (1923, 1928 and 1929).

The X-factor was 17-year-old Pam Barton, the youngest competitor on either side. As a footnote, the USA’s Marion Miley of Lexington, Ky., was younger than Barton, but she was left out of Captain Glenna Collett Vare’s lineup for foursomes and singles due to poor play in the practice sessions leading to the Match. Miley had been a last-minute selection to the team.

Barton, the reigning French champion, was the British Ladies Open Amateur runner-up in 1934 and according to The New York American, “a powerful player with a fine, graceful stylish manner that reveals how thoroughly grounded in the fundamentals she is.”

But the USA had its own set of standouts led by Illinois native Virginia Van Wie, who would claim her third consecutive U.S. Women’s Amateur title shortly after the Curtis Cup. Van Wie would be named The Associated Press Female Athlete of the Year for 1934. Van Wie, along with teammates Orcutt (New Jersey), Opal Hill (Kansas) and Leona Pressler Cheney (California) were the holdovers from the victory two years previous. Later in her career, Orcutt would claim the 1962 and ’66 USGA Senior Women’s Amateur titles.

The course itself favored the American squad. As The New York American deftly pointed out: “Chevy Chase is almost totally a pitch course. That is, its contours and the condition of its grass virtually prohibit the pitch-and-run style of play that is distinctly a British asset.

“Everything favors our side – sultry weather, soft turf and the complexion of the golf course.”

While none of the printed accounts of the 1934 Match mentions the number of spectators, photographs illustrate it was well attended. And the USA players didn’t disappoint the home crowd.

Despite foul weather for the first day of foursomes, the Americans managed a 1-1-1 record in the three matches. Originally scheduled for the morning, the matches were switched to the afternoon to accommodate the gallery, but as the first match reached the ninth green, a heavy dose of rain hit. It forced players and spectators to shelter until the storm passed.

Just prior to the delay, the No. 2 American duo of Cheney and Orcutt took a 10 on the eighth hole due to a four-putt green. It was then, according to The New York Times, that the partnership realized that putters were not the proper clubs on the greens for these inclement course conditions. Cheney and Orcutt settled down and defeated Fishwick and Morgan, 2 up, for the Americans’ lone full point on the first day.

But the day’s biggest surprise was the halve GB&I earned over Van Wie and Charlotte Glutting of New Jersey. Holding a 1-up lead after 17 holes against Barton and Gourlay, Glutting misplayed a chip shot, helping GB&I win the hole and get the half-point.

In the third match, GB&I’s Diana Plumpton and J.B. Walker defeated Hill and Lucille Robinson of Iowa, 2 and 1.

Any hopes of a GB&I win on the second day were completely dashed in singles. Of the six matches played, the Ameicans won five. The lone British victory came in the final match, where Walker defeated Texan Aniela Goldthwaite, 3 and 2. By that point, the USA had already secured the Curtis Cup for a second consecutive Match.

Van Wie led the early charge with a solid 2-and-1 victory over Fishwick. After trailing through nine holes, Van Wie squared the match at the 10th hole and never trailed again, playing the final eight holes of the match in the equivalent of one over par.

Orcutt, who defeated Gourlay, 4 and 2, in the second match, made things relatively easy for herself by winning five holes in succession from the fourth hole. She was 5 up at the turn and closed out the match at the 16th.

Cheney had the easiest of the matches in taking out the young phenom Barton, 7 and 5. She lost the opening hole, but built a 3-up lead at the turn. Those quick three points assured the USA of no worse than a tie.

The dramatics were short-lived as Glutting defeated Morgan, 3 and 2, for the decisive point. For good measure, Hill also registered a 3-and-2 win over Plumpton. Hill would later be one of the 13 original founders of the Ladies Professional Golf Association in 1950. She would also win the Western Open in 1935 and ’36.

Vare, the captain, would win her record sixth U.S. Women’s Amateur title a year later, while Van Wie retired from competitive golf in 1935.

Cheney, Glutting, Hill and Orcutt all represented the USA at the 1936 Curtis Cup in Gleneagles, Scotland. And when the Curtis Cup returned to the U.S. in 1938 at Essex County Club in Manchester-by-the-Sea, Mass., Glultting, Miley and Orcutt, who didn’t play in 1934, were on the USA side, along with Vare.

The Americans would dominate the competition until 1952 when GB&I posted its first win at Muirfield in Scotland. It wouldn’t be until 1986 at Prairie Dunes Country Club in Hutchinson, Kan., that GB&I would post its first victory on this side of the Atlantic, a win that was the beginning of the truly competitive event that the Curtis Cup Match has become.

David Shefter is a USGA staff writer in the communications department. E-mail him with questions or comments at dshefter@usga.org.