Sarah Ingram recently guided the U.S. Curtis Cup team to a 12.5-7.5 win over its counterparts from Britain and Ireland. It was the first time Ingram, who played on three Curtis Cup teams, celebrated a victory. Tee Times caught up with Ingram on her way to the U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur to talk about her experience in Wales.
Tee Times: Recap the whole experience of being the captain of the winning Curtis Cup team. How much more fun was it hoisting the winning trophy this time around than in the past when as a player you watched the other side lift it up?
Sarah Ingram: I had never even touched the trophy before when I was playing, It was fun to touch the trophy and raise it, for sure. The best part of the week was that 10 girls – eight players and two alternates – were the nicest group of girls and young ladies a captain could ask for. There were no divas and everybody got along really, really well. It was great for me because I didn’t have girls and I wasn’t sure how I would do it with that age group. They were really great representatives of the United States. They were so sweet, especially with all of the young spectators out there who were watching. They were always giving autographs. They always went out of their way to give a little girl a ball. It was very sweet, very cute.
Also, our caddies. They were picked out of a hat and we got lucky in that department. A lot of them are similar ages and were university golfers themselves who played at that course themselves. They got along with our group really well. The team was very relaxed in every way, and the caddies helped keep them that way. They had a lot of fun and the win made it that much more special.
Tee Times: What was it like spending that time in Wales with such talented players and watching them perform up to expectations?
Sarah Ingram: They made it easy for me. I probably could have put them in any combination and they would have done well. It was great to see them each day get better. We arrived on Saturday and the matches started on Thursday. Five players weren’t able to get there until the 24th. They arrived late in the afternoon and basically, they had one actual practice round and they walked seven holes the night they arrived. That group it was great to see them improve each day as they got to know the course each day. I enjoyed the five that were there originally. We played in fivesomes and I just kind of just let them prepare the way they felt was necessary to prepare for a tournament. The first day they played entire course as a fivesome. It was very fun. The next day half that group decided play nine and they practiced. They spent some time practicing around the greens. The next day they played the other nine and did the same thing. The fourth practice round for that group the two foursome pairings played foursomes. So, thy got some practice in playing foursomes. My third pairing was winging it. They came in and only had that one practice round.
Tee Times: As the matches unfolded, how nervous were you watching the team play, knowing you had no control from that point on? Is it somewhat of an emotional roller coaster?
Sarah Ingram: The first day obviously was nerve wracking. It didn’t quite go as planned. Overall, they played pretty well. The putts were just not dropping for our group. The girls who came in at the last minute were still getting to know the course. I wasn’t too alarmed, although going into the second day – that morning I was thinking, please let’s just get some points on the board so we weren’t going into singles having already lost. That was my biggest fear.
I knew this group that they were fighters. I watched them over the past two years and they might have bad day and then go low. I knew they would pick it up. I felt like that would be the case. Sure enough, they came out ready to play. It was also the first day after suicide bombing (at the Kabul, Afghanistan airport). Two of the girls, Rachel Heck and Emilia Migliaccio, found out about it before we did. We talked about it at dinner. They said we want to play for the soldiers. These other people are fighting for their lives and we are just playing golf. That was kind of meaningful. It was spawned from team, from the players themselves. They are a pretty mature bunch of girls. That was sobering for sure and inspiring as well.
Tee Times: We just watched a marvelous display of golf at the Solheim Cup. What was the atmosphere like in Wales for the Curtis Cup matches?
Sarah Ingram: The spectators that were out there were extremely gracious to us, knowing that our friends and family weren’t able to be there so we didn’t have that much support. They were very gracious knowing full well that they wanted their team to win. It also kind of helped that there was not a Welsh player on their team. Our girls played with such joy and were smiling and relaxed and really fun-loving, I think that worked in our favor to where we got a lot more respect from the fans than we might have otherwise.
Tee Times: You obviously did a great job during the past two years as captain because the USGA invited you back for another turn as captain. Did that surprise you and is there anything you learned that you will do differently going into the next Curtis Cup matches at Merion?
Sarah Ingram: I learned a ton. No. 1, I think Covid worked in my favor. The (next) matches are only nine months away and it wouldn’t have been fair to the next to the next captain to learn the job and to enjoy the job. The whole process is pretty fun. I appreciate the opportunity to captain this one (2022) because my sister and brother-in-law live across the 14th fairway at Merion. I grew up outside of Baltimore. (Husband) David and I and our family have a fair amount of connections with Merion and Merion is one of my favorite golf courses ever. It’s a thrill to be able to get to captain at Merion.
This whole thing has been a major learning curve for me. I’m newish to all the players that are out there and just trying to figure out exactly what my role is. I’m coming from a player’s perspective at this, not necessarily from a coaching or a mentoring point of view. I’ve never done that before. I never taught school, never been a coach. That was not easy for me to kind of figure all of that out. Over the week in Wales, it was a learning curve for me. How do I deal with the girls; when do I tell them who is playing? I made some mistakes a little bit in that department. I know better now. I’m definitely more confident in my ability to talk to the players and let them know what I am thinking. It was kind of nice to have a couple of girls who when they weren’t playing to be able to say, ‘I need to do this, how would you like for me to share this to that effect. Hopefully, I will do an even better job in some ways than I did this time. Like I said, I had to learn a few things the hard way. I’m excited to get to do it again. It all worked out just fine. It was fun.