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Hull-O, World – Europe Captures Solheim Cup

Things were looking up for the US Team after the morning matches in Saturday’s Day 2 of the Solheim Cup. Led by Solheim stalwart, Paula Creamer and recent British Open Champion, Stacy Lewis, who won the first of the four matches played in the morning, the US had narrowed the European margin to 6 ½  points to 5 ½. Order would surely be restored after lunch and the homeland Americans were certain to reclaim the lead after the afternoon four ball (best ball) matches.

The highlight of the morning matches had been the amazing comeback from a 4 down deficit by the dynamic Swedish tandem of Anna Nordqvist and Caroline Hedwall. They beat Morgan Pressel and Jessica Korda, 2 and 1, when Nordquist aced the par-3 17th hole to record the first hole in one in Solheim Cup history.

This was the first time that the Solheim Cup had been played west of the Mississippi in the nine times it has been played on US soil. The Colorado Golf Club in Parker, Colorado, provided a dramatic background to the most fiercely contested event in Women’s Golf, and proved to be an exciting venue for fans as the course has so many risk/reward holes.

The American team was made up of a cadre of veteran stars headed by Lewis (currently the #2 ranked player in the world) , Creamer, Christie Kerr, Angela Stanford and an improving Michele Wie, who had been a  somewhat controversial Captain’s pick (having not made the team on points, she was one of US Captain Meg Mallon’s two wildcard selections).

The European team was headlined by feisty Norwegian superstar, Suzann Pettersen, steady veteran Catriona Matthew, Nordqvist and rising Spanish stars Beatriz Recari and Azahara Munoz. Six of the team’s teams’ players were making their first appearance in the biennial event. While the American side also had four players who had never experienced the pressure of playing in the Cup, they were still the prohibitive favorites.

2013 would also mark the first time that English legend, Laura Davies, would not be playing on the European team.  Incredibly, Davies has played in each and every one of the first 12 Cups and is the winningest player in its history. The American team would be without a legend of their own, with the absence of Julie Inkster (a 9 time participant). It was perhaps fitting, that at the 2011 Solheim in Ireland, these two great ladies played each other and had halved their match in Sunday’s singles matches.

2013 therefore became a passing of the torch with a new generation of players making their mark.

In the Saturday afternoon four ball matches, Mallon sent her big guns out in the first match (Creamer was paired with 18 year old sensation, Lexi Thompson). Already a winner on the LPGA Tour, Thompson routinely hits the ball 50 yards further than other Tour players. When her short game catches up with her long game, she will likely be the next big American star.

They would be playing against the two Englishwomen on the European team, Jodi Ewart-Shadoff and 17 year old prodigy, Charley Hull. Hull is an extraordinary talent who only turned professional in March of this year, and has already recorded 5 runner-up finishes on the LET (Ladies European Tour). Hull is the youngest player in Solheim history (Thompson is the second youngest), but played as if she had been doing this all of her life. In a see-saw battle that featured more birdies than any other match, both young stars played superbly, but in the end the two European rookies would prevail and win the match 2 up.

The second afternoon match that pitted Americans Gerina Piller and Stanford against the Spanish duo of Carlota Ciganda and Munoz would be more of the same and result in a nail bighting 1 up victory for the Europeans.

24 year old Caroline Hedwall and the first player from Germany to play in the matches, Caroline Masson, beat Wie and Korda 2&1 to win the third afternoon match. Hedwall had been the standout in a team of brilliant performances by going 4-0 in the first two days. Hedwall has been a marquee player on the LET in the last 3 years, winning 5 times and being the Tour’s Player of the Year in her rookie season in 2011.

The afternoon rout became complete when Recari and France’s Karine Icher edged out Kerr and Morgan Pressel 2 and 1 in the final afternoon match.  Europe had taken a stranglehold on the Cup and now had a 10 ½ to 5 ½ lead going into the Sunday’s singles matches meaning that Europe only needed 3 ½ points to retain the Cup and 4 to win it outright.

Mallon would front load the early order of players on Sunday to try and establish some early momentum and lead with her best two players first and second, Lewis and Creamer. In the day’s second match, Creamer was overwhelmed by Hull who played unbelievably well making birdie after birdie to win their match 5 and 4. Hull who shows absolutely no fear and plays as if someone is chasing her would say when asked if she felt a lot of pressure, “Not really. When I play golf I always try to remember that it is a game and that if I don’t hot a good shot, it’s not like I died or something”. As they walked off the green at the end of their match, she asked Creamer to autograph her golf ball.

Lewis could only manage a half point draw with Nordqvist and any hope for an opening impetus was lost. Several of the Americans played very well in the ensuing contest, but it was too much of a deficit to overcome. Europe would record their first victory at an American site.

Fittingly it would be Hedwall who would capture the clinching and winning point for Europe with her one up victory over Wie on the 18th hole. No other player had ever been a perfect 5-0 in the history of the tournament so it was a superlative exclamation point for the serene Swede to be the first to do so.

All things change and all things come to an end. History records that one generation replaces the next and that what you know now, will be different than what you know in 10 minutes. Such is Life; such is Golf. This week at the Colorado Golf Club, those axioms were never exampled better.