OWINGS MILLS, MARYLAND – Their bond goes far beyond their designation as teammates, and as a whole they are far more than merely a quartet of players thrown together to represent Spain.
The foursome that won the inaugural International Crown on Sunday have been friends on and off the golf course for years, which goes a long way toward explaining why Spain played so well as the fifth seed against many of the finest women golfers in the world.
Carlota Ciganda breezed to an early victory to set the tone, and Spain won all four of its singles matches in the final round to win the coveted trophy.
“Even though we were maybe the underdogs because of the seedings, I knew deep inside that what you need in a team championship is what we have,” said Belen Mozo, who clinched the title with a 3-and-2 win over Moriya Jutanugarn of Thailand. “We have always played together, we have always won together. Coming in, we knew we had that advantage over the other teams.”
Sweden finished second in the tournament that began Thursday with 32 players from eight countries.
Japan entered the final round with a one-point lead but lost three of four matches, its lone win coming when Mika Miyazato beat Onnarin Sattayabanphot of Thailand 3 and 1.
“We all like to play under pressure and we know we can do it. It just didn’t happen,” Ai Miyazato said. “It wasn’t our week, but it was an amazing experience.”
Spain began the final round tied for second, but Ciganda immediately gave the Spaniards a boost by beating Choi Na-yeon of South Korea 8 and 6. Beatriz Recari followed with a 3-and-2 victory over Mikaela Parmlid of Sweden, and Mozo’s clinching victory set off an impromptu celebration on the 16th hole that began with a jubilant Recari jumping into Mozo’s arms.
Azahara Munoz completed the sweep by beating Ai Miyazato 2 and 1.
Munoz and Ciganda played at this same Caves Valley course in helping Arizona State win the 2009 NCAA women’s championship. Munoz, Ciganda and Recari participated on the last two Solheim Cup champions for Europe.
“We’re so good as a team because we’re used to, since we were younger, playing together,” Munoz said. “I always played with Belen and Carlota. They were always my foursome partners. It just is so special to be on a team with them.”
Points accumulated through Saturday were added to those amassed Sunday. Using the scoring system of two points for a win and one for a tie, the final order was: Spain (15 points), Sweden (11), South Korea (10), Japan (10), Thailand (9), United States (6), Taiwan (4) and Australia (3).