Annabel Wilson selected for the Curtis Cup 2021
In 2008, Andrew and Eleanor Wilson brought their three children, Liam, Edward and Annabel, on a family holiday to Scotland. During the holiday Andrew took the children to a golf centre to let them try hitting a few balls and it was there that Annabel, seven at the time, hit her first golf shot.
“I can still remember that shot clearly and during the holiday I came to love the game. I couldn’t wait to get home to go out and play some more,” she recalls.
On her return she went out regularly with her father and it shortly became clear she had a very special talent for the game. Lurgan Golf Club had a strong Junior section at the time which included some very talented girls and when Annabel joined she thrived in their company.
“I can remember my first game with Niamh McSherry and many games with great players like Niamh Ward, Zoe Allen, Maeve Cummins, Cara Murphy and others. I was soon playing in the adult competitions and will always be grateful for the help and encouragement everyone at the club gave me.”
She was soon a familiar sight at dawn during the summer months, and early morning golfers would regularly see her on the course as they teed off, and then she would change into her uniform and head off to school.
“I loved the summer. I would get up about 4.30 am and waken my father to go to the course and practise. He always got up right away and brought me and joined me on the course. He has always been very encouraging and been the
biggest influence on my golfing life. My mother doesn’t play golf, but she has always supported me in every way, and gave me a great perspective on life away from golf. I will be eternally grateful for all they have done for me,” said Annabel.
Away from the course Annabel likes nothing better than cooking for the family and watching the smiles on her brothers’ faces as they enjoy the fruits of her labours.
On leaving school she had a number of offers of a place from American Universities and eventually chose UCLA, University of California, Los Angeles, as it had a great reputation for preparing young golfers for the LPGA Tour.
Her successes at golf are far too numerous to mention but include:
8th and 9th places respectively in the Portuguese and Spanish Ladies Amateur Championships
Top 20 finish in both the World Junior Girls Championship and the European Ladies Amateur Championship
represented Ireland in the Ladies’ Home Internationals and the European Ladies’ Team Championships
represented Great Britain and Ireland against the rest of Europe for the Vagliano Trophy
Won the Irish Women’s’ Close Championship
played in the 2019 ISPS Handa World Invitational tournament which included some of the world’s best professional players
represented Ireland in the Home Internationals and in the European Team Championships.
“I love playing for Ireland and have made some great friends doing so. There is such a feeling of togetherness and there is always a great deal of laughter from the Irish table at mealtimes,” she says.
The only previous Lurgan winner of the Irish Ladies Amateur Close Championship was Miss Crystal MacGeagh who lifted the trophy in 1939. In her acceptance speech she said:
“… although I am the first member of the Ladies’ branch to win the Irish Ladies’ Cup, I hope I am not the last.”
It may have taken another eighty years, but Annabel duly delivered.
Being picked for the Curtis Cup is the highest achievement for lady amateur golfers in Great Britain and Ireland. Having been picked for the team last year, Annabel had to wait to see if she would be picked again after Covid forced a year’s postponement. Her hugely impressive record made re-selection almost certain, but she still greeted it with relief and excitement.
“I was absolutely delighted with being selected and can’t wait for next week. My parents will be there and knowing they will be walking the fairways with me will make my dream complete.”
Playing in the Curtis Cup will put Annabel’s name alongside some of the greatest names in ladies golf who have played in it previously. They include Dame Laura Davies, Michelle Wie, Catriona Matthew, Georgina Hall, Leona Maguire, Charley Hull, Nancy Lopez and Lexi Thompson.
The 41st Curtis Cup will take place next week, 26-28 August, at Conwy Golf Club, Wales, and among the supporters will be Club President Ian McMurray with his wife Blanche, and Club Captain Eugene Maguire and wife Christine. They are all looking forward to the occasion immensely and very keen to wish Annabel well.
“I feel very proud and privileged to be able to attend such a prestigious event. We have all been very aware of Annabel’s talent for a long time and also of the dedication and effort she has put in to reach this standard. On behalf of everyone at Lurgan Golf Club I offer her many congratulations on her selection for the team and every best wish in her matches next week,” said Eugene.
Lady Captain Ita also sends best wishes on behalf of all the ladies. 'We are so proud of Annabel and the great success she is having is due to her dedication and hard work. The ladies have watched, and some have been lucky enough to play with Annabel over the years both in our competitions and on various club teams. She has been involved in many of our successful club teams over the years such as the Senior Foursomes Ulster winners in 2013, one of our first teams to reach an All-Ireland final. We knew she had a special talent and it is so good to see her achieve her ambition of playing on the Curtis Cup team. We will all be following her progress in her matches and wish her and Ireland's other representative Lauren Walsh all the very best. We will all be glued to the television and watching with great pride.'
The Curtis Cup was presented to the United States Golf Association by two sisters who were remarkable in many ways. Harriot and Margaret Curtis were the youngest of ten siblings and lived near Boston. Encouraged to participate in sport from a very early age, Harriot won the US Women’s Amateur Golf Championship in 1906 but was then beaten by her sister Margaret in the final of 1907. Margaret went on to win the trophy again in 1911 and 1912. Margaret also won the US Amateur Doubles Tennis Championships in 1907.
Although they will be best remembered for golf and the Curtis Cup, they were most proud of the work they did for people in need both within their own community and abroad.
In 1909 they set up the Maverick Dispensary to help impoverished Italian immigrants and funded it themselves.
Harriot worked on behalf of African Americans at a time when racism was rife in the country. Through her friendship with the conductor of the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra she arranged an audition for a young black singer called Dorothy Maynard. Dorothy performed exceptionally well and although race laws prevented her from singing in any American Opera House, she filled many concert halls over the years. She then went on to form the Harlem School of the Arts and always expressed her gratitude for the start given to her by Harriott Curtis.
At the outbreak of the First World War Harriot was director of charities set up to help refugees and other problems caused by the war. She volunteered at the Centre for French wounded.
In 1916 Margaret went to France to help with a desperate humanitarian crisis caused by the First World War. Such was the work she did that she was awarded the Medaille de Guerre by the French Red Cross in 1919, and the Medaille de la Reconnaissance by the French Government in 1920.
After the war she helped set up health clinics in Austria, Poland and Czechoslovakia. She also went to Greece, where the war between Greece and Turkey raged on, and helped with a desperate refugee crisis. She only returned to America when her mother died in 1923.
It would be wrong to write about the Curtis Cup without mentioning these two remarkable ladies. They worked tirelessly to promote better understanding between nations and presented the Cup to the United States Golf Association in 1927. For whatever reason the first match was not played until 1932. The inscription on the Cup sums up what the two sisters put so much of their lives into.
‘To stimulate friendly rivalry among the women golfers of many lands.’
They both died in the house in Boston in which they were born, Margaret in 1965 at the age of 82, and Harriot in 1974 aged 93.