Golf: Solheim prospect excites Walker

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The Independent Online


The Solheim Cup could be nestling in Europe come September if the optimism of the captain, Mickey Walker, is to be believed. "We have the most exciting women golfers in the world without any doubt," she said yesterday.

Walker, by popular demand, has been the non-playing captain of Europe since the match against the United States began in Lake Nona, Florida, in 1990. The vastly experienced Americans won the first encounter, Europe took the second in Dalmahoy, Edinburgh, in 1992 and the United States won the third at The Greenbrier, West Virginia, two years ago.

This year, the match will be held at the Marriott St Pierre Hotel in Chepstow from 20-22 September and the Women Professional ers' European tour is expecting a daily attendance of around 15,000, which would exceed any audience for a women's event in Europe.

In Laura Davies, Annika Sorenstam and Liselotte Neumann, Europe currently has the top three players in the world. Walker was too diplomatic to say so, but she hinted that the best of the Americans are getting a little long in the tooth.

"When we won at Dalmahoy it had a huge effect," Walker said. "Our tour is improving so quickly and most of our players are not even close to achieving their potential. In contrast, America's top players have reached their potential and their team will be changing with the introduction of more rookies. We are going to be the team with the most experience in terms of Solheim Cup competition. The nucleus of our side will be the same and we are getting better all the time.

"Traditionally, the Americans have always had the edge in that they have had far greater strength in depth, but that is changing. When we played the first match in Florida we didn't really believe in our hearts that we could win." Europe will have seven automatic qualifiers from a points system over the course of the 1995 and 1996 season and Walker has the luxury of five wild cards. The US, by comparison, have one wild card.

The course at St Pierre, which in the past has been the venue for professional events on the men's tour, is being refurbished to the tune of pounds 750,000.

n Seve Ballesteros and Jose Maria Olazabal suffered a not unexpected defeat when they made their comebacks in Gran Canaria yesterday. The Spaniards, both of whom have not played since last September, lost by two holes to Colin Montgomerie - also playing for the first time this season - and Sam Torrance in an 18-hole, four-ball challenge match.