It TOOK 13 attempts, but Colorado Golf Club proved to be a lucky hunting ground for a European Solheim Cup team packed with rookies. It wasn’t just a win over the USA, it was a record 18-10 whipping.
“We got our butts kicked,” admitted US Captain Meg Mallon, seemingly perplexed by the inability of her side to raise their games in the heat of battle.
“The Europeans played well and they made more putts. They seemed to hole the shots when it mattered most, especially at the 16th, 17th and 18th. We thought the 18th was the hardest hole on the course but I don’t know how many times Europe managed to make birdie.”
One of the birdies came on the final day from the unstoppable Caroline Hedwall. All square on the final tee with Michelle Wie, she hit a nine iron second shot 150 yards to four feet and holed the putt for a one-hole win and a point that secured the 14 points needed for the draw and for holders Europeto retain the Cup.
Moments later it was Catriona Matthew who made sure that Europe won outright with a half point against Gerina Piller.
Hedwall was the only player on either side to play in all five matches and the sturdy 24-year-old Swede won a full set of point – a Solheim first. “It’s unbelievable,” she said. “I was a little tired but I was so pumped up. This is why you practise so hard, for moments like this.”
Matthew has played in seven Solheims and, as she reiterates, they keep getting better. At Barseback in Sweden in 2003, the Scot claimed the winning point with a singles win over Rosie Jones and her only loss in singles was as a rookie in 1998. She was also a key member of the win at Killeen Castle in Ireland two years ago.
But even the most experienced player admitted to nerves. “I was shaking,” she said of her walk down the 18th. “They told me, so I knew that if I got a half we would win it outright.”
Behind from the second – and two down with five to play – Matthew won the 14th and the short 17th to draw level and it was a knee-knocker of a five-foot par putt at the last that sparked more celebrations.
Matthew, in the top ten in the world rankings, reached an individual height when she captured the Ricoh Women’s British Open title at Royal Lytham and St Annes in 2009.
But this was just as good. “Any time you can celebrate with your 11 team-mates and all the other helpers, caddies and everything, it makes it far more exciting and more fun,” said North Berwick’s finest, who was able to share the moment with her husband and caddie, Graeme, and her Mum, Joan, who was in the crowd.
This week, Matthew is competing in the CN Canadian Open in Edmonton and then it will be back home to celebrate with daughters, Katie and Sophie, and take part in the Aberdeen Asset Management Ladies’ Scottish Open at Archerfield, which tees off on 30 August, a title she won two years ago.
The breakthrough for Europe came down to several factors, most notably the form of the rookies. Half the team was made up of newbies, but they performed to perfection. The 4-0 clean sweep in Saturday’s fourballs was also key – meaning they only needed 3 ½ points from the singles.
Charley Hull, the 17-year-old from Woburn, was a revelation, and she must have earned a bundle of new fans on both sides of the Atlantic. The youngest ever player in a Solheim Cup, she was a wild card pick by captain Liselotte Neumann and she repaid the faith with two wins from three matches. In the singles, she thumped Paula Creamer 5 and 4. At the end of her match on Sunday, she amused everybody by asking Creamer to sign a ball. “I’ve got a good friend, James, back home and he’s a big fan so I thought why not?” she explained.
All week, Hull displayed refreshing naivety but in the heat of battle she was as mature as they come. “But that’s the way I always play,” she insisted. “I just go up and whack it and if I hit a bad shot I’m not going to die.” And she summed up the week in one word: “Wicked.”
Before the match in Ireland two years ago, the USA led this event 8-3, leading some to suggest the USA v Asia would be a better spectacle.
But now the score is 8-5 and Europe will be heading for three in a row in Germany – the 2015 version takes place at St Leon-Rot. Another win and it could be Europe v Asia that becomes a more mouth-watering prospect.
For Neumann, skippering Europe to the historic win was another highlight in her outstanding career. Back in 1988, she became the first Swede to win a major at the US Women’s Open – a victory that inspired Annika Sorenstam (a vice-captain at Colorado) to go on and rule the world of women’s golf.
It’s hard to imagine anyone would argue if she gets the chance to try and make it a European hat-trick in Germany but, for the moment, she just hopes that the players and the Ladies’ European Tour get the praise and the spin-offs they deserve from an unbelievable triumph.