The final score at the 2017 Solheim Cup simply doesn’t do justice to the event. Team USA, the favorite to win from the start, faced a fierce and determined challenger in Team Europe. It wasn’t a win that came easily or quickly or without considerable pain and struggle.
As the Solheim Cup players followed the bagpipers into the arena for the closing ceremony this afternoon, I felt a great swelling of pride – for the game of golf, for the women who play it, and for these 24 who have shown the world the best the game has to offer during three long, demanding days of competition.
Friday started badly for the Americans, who really aren’t as well-suited psychologically or culturally to manage the alternate shots format as are the Europeans. The Americans came back and swept the Friday afternoon fourball matches and started the Saturday morning round of foursome matches with a comfortable lead.
An exceptionally balanced competition
But the scores, even after that first round of paired matches, didn’t reveal the intensity or the equality of the competition. With one exception, the Friday team matches in both formats went to the 17th or 18th hole. I knew by the end of Friday that the competition at the 2017 Solheim Cup was going to be intense and that each match was going to be hotly contended, regardless of the outcome.
That pattern continued. There just weren’t any uneven matches, not in the foursome format, not in fourball play, and certainly not in the Sunday singles matches, which split the 12 remaining points evenly.
The oddsmakers had it right from the beginning. They were giving Team USA the edge, but not by much. And that’s how it played out. Despite the loss of Jessica Korda on the American side and the substitution of Paula Creamer, and despite the loss of Suzann Pettersen on the European side and the substitution of Catriona Matthew, I didn’t see any erosion in the quality of play. Creamer and Matthew demonstrated beyond a doubt that when it comes to Solheim Cup competition, experience counts.
Despite Anna Nordqvist’s and Lexi Thompson’s lingering health issues, both summoned the strength and energy to dig deep and give all to their Sunday match, which was truly one of the most amazing displays of golf skill and endurance I’ve ever witnessed.
For Creamer, for Matthew, for Nordqvist, and for Thompson – who all faced at least one critical moment in their play – that reservoir of personal experience trumped time in the gym, swing coaches, time on the range, and the hopes and dreams of their teammates.
Kudos to the rookies
The rookies on both sides played like experienced veterans. They are the future of women’s golf and we’ll see them compete against each other again and again in a variety of venues, but this week in Des Moines Georgia Hall, Angel Yin, Danielle Kang, Austin Ernst, Emily Pedersen, Madelyn Sagstrom, and Florentyna Parker carried their weight and did so gracefully and skillfully.
The spirit of competition
To my utter relief, even at it’s most intense, the competition remained civil and at times even cordial, as it should be in the game of golf. The 2017 Solheim Cup players healed the terrible, painful breach of faith and trust that was created in the aftermath of the St. Leon-Rot Gimmegate debacle.
Paula Creamer’s post-round comment about Georgia Hall, her singles match opponent, sums up the spirit of competition that informed the whole of the 3-day golf extravaganza: “She deserved to win – she was that good.”
In the game of golf, the spirit of the game and the intensity of competition is infectious. The galleries get easily caught up in the passion of the moment. The galleries at Des Moines Golf and Country Club were no different. They were loud, at times wildly enthusiastic, and yet they were respectful. Whether it was the civility among the competitors that set the tone or simple midwestern good manners, the Solheim Cup galleries found that fine balance between partisan support and respect for the competition.
Inkster and Sörenstam
In competitions such as the Solheim Cup and the Ryder Cup, the captain sets the tone, and Captains Inkster and Sörenstam did a particularly good job this year.
More from Solheim Cup
- Teams Split Singles Matches, Europe Retains Solheim Cup
- Europe holds a Two Point Lead into the Final Day of the Solheim Cup
- 2021 Solheim Cup: A look into Team Europe’s full Team
- 2021 Solheim Cup: Diving into Team USA
- Solheim Cup: On to Sunday and 12 singles matches
Their Sunday morning 1st tee dance was just the icing on their cake of friendly competition. Their two years of backstage work established the foundation for the public event and their longstanding relationship as both friends and competitors set exactly the right tone for their teams and the fans.
They were there for their players and for the game and together Inkster and Sörenstam have set the bar very high for future Solheim Cup captains.
As the organizers begin their planning for 2019 and the 16th playing of the Solheim Cup at Gleneagles, all they need do is follow the roadmap Captains Inkster and Sörenstam created this year.
It’s a wrap!
With 120,000 tickets sold, the 2017 Solheim Cup set an attendance record. The viewer records from the 30+ hours of Golf Channel/NBC live broadcast aren’t in yet, but let’s assume those will be record setting as well.
As Paula Creamer summed it, the 2017 Solheim Cup was a win for women’s golf!
There was no dramatic Sunday comeback this year in Des Moines. Instead, we were treated to a day of incredibly intense and well-played golf by 24 players who represent the best the game has to offer.