Solheim Cup: Rookies revive transatlantic duel and give new life to European tour

Solheim Cup sensation Charley Hull and her fellow young stars steal the show in Colorado

The story of Europe’s Solheim Cup victory in Colorado reads like a list, a bucket list of dream outcomes, the kind of fantastic entries on history’s ledger that you conjure in your sleep but fear would never survive the cut and thrust of competitive reality. Except across three remarkable days high in the North American sierra history was indeed made, and by the bucketload.

The win secured in the early hours of yesterday morning was the first by Europe’s women on American soil, and the first time they had retained the trophy. The margin of victory, 18-10, was the largest recorded by a European team and Caroline Hedwall’s birdie putt at the last to beat Michelle Wie gave her an unprecedented clean sweep of five points, the maximum haul an individual can contribute. And we have not even got to Charley Hull, one of six rookies in the side and at 17 the youngest player to represent either team, who in Sunday’s singles smashed American totem Paula Creamer 5&4 to claim the first point of an epic afternoon and her second of the contest.

You can take a breath, now. This was a triumph of individual brilliance, of collective will, of smart, intuitive leadership from captain Lotte Neumann and it has transformed this competition and the prospects for women’s golf on this side of the Atlantic. The Ladies European tour is the LPGA’s poorer cousin, lacking the range, depth and commercial support of women’s golf in the United States.

Europe’s triumph in Ireland two years ago was as significant as it was dramatic, requiring points from the last four singles matches to halt a run of three successive defeats to the United States.

Just as broadcasters were tiring of America’s domination of the Ryder Cup in the Seventies so interest was draining in its sister event. Predictability is death to the sporting spectacle and has television companies and sponsors running for the door. Victory in Colorado, therefore, substantiated considerably the Irish success, the more so given the manner of its delivery. Hedwall takes the headline plaudits with her record points haul, but it was Hull who symbolised the transformation, a slip of a girl from Kettering, who a year ago was a part of the GB&I Curtis Cup team that beat the United States for the first time in 16 years.  Hull, like Hedwall, was a captain’s pick. Though five times a runner-up, consecutively at that, in this her debut season on the Ladies European Tour, Hull, unlike Hedwall, was a hunch in this environment, and what a dividend she paid. Playing alongside fellow Englishwoman Jodi Ewart Shadoff, also a captain’s pick, in the top match in Saturday’s afternoon fourballs, she returned her first point for Europe against Creamer and young Amazon Lexi Thompson. On Sunday she was unleashed at the top of the order again and after leaving major winner Creamer a broken woman, asked her to sign a golf ball for a mate back home. Kids eh?

Asked if she was unnerved by the prospect of facing a former US Open champion and heartbeat of the American team, Hull said: “I didn’t really feel that nervous, to be honest. Because this is how I always look at golf. I’m not going to die if I miss it. I just hit it and find it and hit it again.” To quote from the lingua franca of American sports coverage: “Wow.”

Speaking to the BBC, Hull added: “I gave myself high hopes and just wanted to prove people wrong. I’m 17 and people were wondering if I could perform under the pressure but I go out and enjoy it, which takes care of the pressure. Before the match [against Creamer] I just thought ‘bring it on’ because I beat her on Saturday and I’d try to do it again.”

According to Sweden’s Suzann Pettersen, a veteran of seven duels with America at just 32, the fearlessness of Hull and her fellow rookies was at the heart of a triumph that she sees as transformative. “I think this is the best team I’ve ever been a part of. I talked to Annika [Sorrenstam, vice-captain], I said this is a new generation coming up. To sit and watch the kids, I call them the kids, the girls, Charley thinks I’m old, to sit and watch them perform the way they did, yesterday afternoon, it was almost more fun watching from the sidelines than actually playing yourself.

“A fantastic team effort, and I think all the rookies did a fantastic job. It’s massive for women’s golf, it’s massive for Solheim Cup. For us to be historical and win on American soil, in Colorado, in front of pretty much an all American crowd. We took it to them and they couldn’t answer.”

For her selections, her pairings and the order in which she sent the players out, Neumann deserves all the praise coming her way. “My first two picks were Jodi and then Caroline and in my mind I was thinking of players that I could pair them with and who would be my next picks. Charley was definitely in the thinking there. She was on my junior team two years ago and she’s just a special girl. And she has a special game and she brings a lot of energy to our team and she’s just a terrific player. She plays fearless and it was just awesome to have her on our team. I think we all love Charley.”

The putt that won the cup for Europe was holed by the oldest player on either side, Scotland’s Catriona Matthew, 43. Playing against Gerina Piller, Matthew was two down inside three holes and again with five to play after the American lasered birdies at 12 and 13. A birdie at 14 brought her within a hole of her opponent, who conveniently bogeyed the penultimate hole to leave the match all square going up  the 18th.

“I was kind of shaking. They told me coming up, so I knew that if we get a half there, we would win it outright. I’m still shaking, I think. I like these little five footers on the last.”

Heart and Sol: European stars 

Charley Hull  

At 17 the youngest player in history to contest the Solheim Cup, a fearless mascot scoring two wins.

Caroline Hedwall

Unprecedented victories in all five sessions, contributing five of Europe’s18 points.

Catriona Matthew

Sank the putt for the half point needed to win the trophy for the first time in America.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Raif Badawi: Wife pleads for fresh EU help as Saudi blogger's health worsens

Please save my husband

As the health of blogger Raif Badawi worsens in prison, his wife urges EU governments to put pressure on the Saudi Arabian royal family to allow her husband to join his family in Canada
Birthplace of Arab Spring in turmoil as angry Tunisians stage massive sit-in over lack of development

They shall not be moved: jobless protesters bring Tunisia to a halt

A former North African boom town is wasting away while its unemployed citizens stick steadfastly to their sit-in
David Hasselhoff's new show 'Hoff the Record': What's it like working with a superstar?

Hanging with the Hoff

Working with David Hasselhoff on his new TV series was an education for Ella Smith
Can Dubai's Design District 'hipster village' attract the right type of goatee-wearing individualist?

Hipsters of Arabia

Can Dubai’s ‘creative village’ attract the right type of goatee-wearing individualist?
The cult of Roger Federer: What is it that inspires such obsessive devotion?

The cult of Roger Federer

What is it that inspires such obsessive devotion?
Kuala Lumpur's street food: Not a 'scene', more a way of life

Malaysian munchies

With new flights, the amazing street food of Kuala Lumpur just got more accessible
10 best festival beauty

Mud guards: 10 best festival beauty

Whether you're off to the Isle of Wight, Glastonbury or a local music event, we've found the products to help you
Unai Emery’s passion for winning and eye for a bargain keep Seville centre stage in Europe

A Different League

Unai Emery’s passion for winning and eye for a bargain keep Seville centre stage in Europe, says Pete Jenson
Amir Khan and James DeGale’s remarkable Olympic performances were just the start of an extraordinary journey - Steve Bunce

Steve Bunce on Boxing

Amir Khan and James DeGale’s remarkable Olympic performances were just the start of an extraordinary journey
Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf