HANDA CUP: Jones wins twice, but U.S. trails after Day 1

OLD HICKORY – Some golf history could be made on Sunday at the LPGA Legends Tour’s ISPS Handa Cup.

The World team was winless in the first seven stagings of the team competition that matches LPGA players 45 and over from the U.S. against their Legends counterparts who were born internationally. The U.S. won the first six meetings and last year’s ended in a 24-24 tie at the Reunion Resort in Orlando, Fla.

This eighth staging, at Hermitage Golf Club on the outskirts of Nashville, could have a much different result based on what transpired in Saturday’s 12 team matches. The World team opened a 14-10 lead and just needs to protect it in Sunday’s 12 singles matches. Each match is worth two points.

Saturday’s opening day of the competition saw the World team play the U.S. to a 6-6 standoff in the morning best ball matches and then dominate in the afternoon alternate shot battles.

The U.S. won only one match in the afternoon, that one coming from the team of Rosie Jones and Beth Daniel. Jones-Daniel also won in the morning, as Jones continued her reign as the dominant individual in the team competition. The two wins on Saturday gave Jones a lifetime 17-3-2 record in Handa Cup matches. No other player on either team has won more than 13 times.

“I’ve just had good partners,’’ said Jones. “Team events make me knuckle down. I try to putt well in all of them and try to not make any mistakes.’’

Jones has won with a variety of partners over the years and believes her last loss was five years ago. Her partners prior to Daniel were usually Patty Sheehan or Sherri Steinhauer.

“Both couldn’t be here this year,’’ said Jones, “but they can put me with anybody who can tolerate my short drives. Beth Daniel this week is hitting the ball really good. She’s 30 yards closer (to the green) than I normally would be, so it’s easier for me to hit wedges in.’’

Daniel is no slouch in Handa Cup play, either. She has a 12-5-2 record. Like Jones, she’s not used to seeing her U.S. team trail in the competition.

“I was kind of surprised,’’ said Jones. “But we have 24 points out there. That’s what we’ve got to bank on.’’

The U.S. will get a dose of reality in the first singles match, at 9 a.m. on Sunday when Daniel faces long-hitting Laura Davies. Davies sparked the World team on Saturday while playing with Trish Johnson. The duo from England was 5-under-par in best ball and a staggering 6-under in alternate shot en route to winning both times.

Their morning match was the first of the competition and opponents Pat Bradley and Betsy King took charge for the U.S. early with birdies on the first three holes. Davies-Johnson rallied back, however, and got the win when Davies rolled in a 20-foot downhill birdie putt on the final hole.

After Saturday’s matches were over World team captain Pia Nilsson quickly made Davies the first player to go off in singles on Sunday. Daniel will be a tough opponent. Jones will try to keep her winning streak going in the second singles match against Johnson, Davies’ partner on Saturday.

Davies is the only player on the World team to win a title in the Sara Lee Classic, an LPGA stop at Hermitage from 1988-2002. Davies won that event in 1994. The only other players in this Handa Cup to win the Sara Lee Classic didn’t do so well on Saturday. Nancy Lopez (1991) and Barb Mucha (1998) were paired in both the best ball and alternate shot formats and were losers in both.


Morning best ball: Laura Davies-Trish Johnson, World, def. Pat Bradley-Betsy King; Lorie Kane-Alicia Dibos, World, def. Nancy Lopez-Barb Mucha; Sherri Turner-Laurie Rinker, U.S., def. Liselotte Neumann-Jane Crafter; Cindy Figg-Currier-Christa Johnson, U.S., def. Gail Graham-Jenny Lidback; Helen Alfredsson-Jan Stephenson, World, def. Nancy Scranton-Cindy Rarick; Beth Daniel-Rose Jones, U.S., def. Alison Nicholas-Mieko Nomura.

Afternoon alternate shot: Davies-Johnson, World, def. Turner-Rinker; Neumann-Dibos, World, def. Bradley-King; Figg-Currier-Christa Johnson, U.S., tied with Kane-Graham; Alfredsson-Nicholas def. Lopez-Mucha; Daniel-Jones def. Crafter-Nomura; Scranton-Rarick tied with Lidback-Stephenson.


9 a.m. – Daniel vs. Davies; 9:10 – Jones vs. Trish Johnson; 9:20 – Rarick vs. Lidback; 9:30 – Mucha vs. Alfredsson; 9:40 – Lopez vs. Nicholas; 9:50 – Christa Johnson vs. Kane; 10 a.m. – Bradley vs. Nomura; 10:10 – Rinker vs. Crafter; 10:20 – Scranton vs. Neumann; 10:30 – Figg-Currier vs. Dibos; 10:40 – Turner vs. Stephenson; 10:50 – King vs. Graham.