Was it any surprise that the Spanish rose to the occasion on the world stage last week in the first International Crown competition? After all, Spain’s Seve Ballesteros and Jose Maria Olazabal were the kingpins of team play at the Ryder Cup for two decades and Spaniards have been instrumental in two consecutive European wins at both the Solheim Cup and Ryder Cup. Add in the momentum of a 2010 World Cup men’s soccer title and a ranking in men’s basketball second only to the Americans.
“Our blood boils when we see the flag and hear the anthem,” Beatriz Recari said.
Maybe that’s why Spain rallied from a shutout better-ball loss to the United States last Friday and captured all four of its Singles matches on Sunday to win the first International Crown at Baltimore’s Caves Valley.
Spain was well-schooled on match-play competition. All four participants, ages 24 to 27, were a part of the same Spanish Golf Federation junior teams before they were teenagers. Azahara Munoz and Carlota Ciganda were members of Arizona State’s 2009 NCAA Championship team at Caves Valley, so they were familiar with the site. Belen Mozo was a member of Southern Cal’s third-place team that year. Ciganda was 3-0-0 in her Solheim Cup debut in 2013. Munoz’s only LPGA victory came at the 2012 Sybase Match Play Championship, where she defeated four 2014 International Crown participants en route to the title.
“I hope that with what we did today that more girls are going to watch and say, ‘OK, I want to be there, I want to be with them, too, and raising this trophy for my country’,” Recari said. “So I think it's only going to help for sure.”
Now it’s on to achieve individual acclaim. Marti Figueras-Dotti may be the most significant Spanish women’s golf figure, as she captured the 1982 Women’s British Open as an amateur (even though it wasn’t recognized as a major by the LPGA at the time). No Spanish golfer has claimed a major championship since.
Among the four players at the International Crown, there are a combined four LPGA career wins and a best major championship finish of T7 by Munoz in this year’s Kraft Nabisco. Recari has three LPGA wins, including two last year, and is the most recent Spanish winner. Munoz’s lone win came two years ago. Ciganda has two career top-10s on the LPGA. Mozo has finished T10 and T4 (a career best) within the last two months.