This Solheim Cup will go down in history for a number of reasons. They are:
MOST DRAMATIC FINISH: The winner of the Solheim Cup was not determined until the last putt on the last hole of the last singles match on the last day of the Tournament when Paula Creamer of Team USA sunk her putt to win the match for Team USA giving them the 14-1/2 Overall points needed to win.
Paula Creamer was, in fact, a Captain’s Pick of Team USA. Because Creamer has not had a good year on the LPGA Tour, she did not make the 2015 Team USA on points or world rankings. But Creamer, age 29, has played in five previous Solheim Cups – some in fact with Juli Inkster as her partner. She is described as the “heart and soul” of the U.S. Solheim Cup squad since 2005.
Inkster chose to play Creamer last on the singles matches and that turned out to be a smart move. In fact, she did not play Creamer in the Saturday afternoon Fourballs –giving Creamer a rest. When Inkster submitted the order for the single matches, she did not know that Creamer would be playing against Germany’s Sandra Gal.
Gal, age 30, was making her second appearance at the Solheim Cup. Gal played in the 2011 Solheim Cup but not in 2013. Perhaps Team Europe’s Captain, Carin Koch, by placing Gal in the last singles match was betting that the home-town German galleries would give Gal an edge in that last match.
HISTORIC COMEBACK: Team USA’s comeback on Sunday was the biggest comeback in Solheim Cup history. The Overall point score when the singles began was Team Europe 10 and Team USA 6. As I wrote, on Saturday, USA had to play very well – earn 8-1/2 points – in order to win the Cup, which is what they did. On the flip side, Team Europe just needed to win 4 points out of those 12 matches – that seemed much easier. I ended my Saturday report by suggesting that Inkster seemed to had found her pairings on Saturday. But perhaps, a better explanation is that she gave her players the confidence to go out and play and as she advised “never give up.” Among recreational women golfers in the U.S., match play is generally not favored. The final women’s championship matches in most U.S. golf clubs is only a handful of golfers. In Europe, match play is much more common. Personally, I like match play and hope that our U.S. golf facilities find a way to encourage it. One of the reasons I like it, is that I can say to my opponent, “You know I get distracted easily, so let’s just not talk about our husbands, kids or grandkids or anything! Let’s just play our games.” Those hours of concentration and focus in match play are actually relaxing in a unique way for me. The social aspect of golf continues to be emphasized in the U.S. as the way to grow the game – more nine and dines, etc. The beauty of the game of golf is that it offers so many choices.
TECHNOLOGY HYPE – NOT DELIVERED: The technology that SAP touted for the 2015 Solheim Cup was disappointing. In fact, my friends watching it in the U.S. heard comments from the U.S. television coverage, that there were not enough scoreboards and they were hard to read. I couldn’t agree more! I was rather shocked to see that on one scoreboard the scores were being placed on the board by using small sticky-notes with numbers. Dietmar Hopp, one of the founders of SAP, the developer of the St. Leon Golf Club and its two 18-hole courses plus a short course plus an indoor practice area had also advertised that their new technology would make golf really exciting to watch on TV. Yes, SAP used the word “exciting.” I expected some innovative graphics showing terrain changes and projections of shots. But there was none of that.
ABOUT THE COURSE: The St. Leon golf course at the St. Leon Golf Club is a beautiful course. Designed by English architect, Dave Thomas, the course has been restored over the past years. Originally it was more of a links course, but now in my opinion it is “less-links” and a little more “park-style.” I think if I asked Tom Doak and Donald Ross (if he were still alive!) to design a course in this beautiful setting in Germany, it might look something like the St. Leon course. (All responses welcome!!) I sat at breakfast one morning next to a gentleman from Frankfurt who told me that the course is beautiful to play — long and hard. He also added, that Dietmar Hopp has a buzzer at the 18th tee that he can ring so that a golf cart can pick him up on the 18th green because it’s a long walk back to the Clubhouse. Yes, I want to come back to St. Leon and play the course! I stayed in the nearby town of Weislach – hardly on the map. It’s a beautiful little town with an historic square and beautiful churches plus excellent restaurants. Perhaps it’s a secret as there were quite a few Team Europe fans staying there.
ABOUT THE CAPTAINS: Captain Juli Inkster of Team USA and Captain Carin Koch of Team Europe are very different from each other. Koch is involved in fashion and endorses several fashion products including sunglasses. Fashion is her image and she is very attractive. Inkster is also very attractive but promotes a sports/competitive image. Throughout the preparation for the matches, Inkster repeatedly told her players to bring their lunch boxes. When Team USA won on that final hole, she was given a tee shirt which she immediately put on that said “Winners Get Chicken Dinners.” I will be on the lookout for what that was all about.
ABOUT THE CONTROVERSIES. The not-conceded-putt-controversy. Here’s the follow-up. Sunday night in my on-site post for www.womensgolf.com, I discussed the “not-really-conceded-putt” controversy and suggested that fans just watch the video of the green and the way Pettersen and Hull just walked away –their body language said just what Alison Lee thought she heard, which was that her putt was conceded. I have been playing and writing about golf for a long time and have not seen the behavior of Petterson before. When does an athlete’s drive to “win” overcome her/his sense of fairness.and sportsmanship? Many sports have a penalty system — it’s yards in football, it’s free-throws in basketball, it’s penalty kicks in soccer — or a referee system. But golf is different. Years ago when I was a golf chairman at my club and had to settle a dispute between two golfers, a wise PGA golf professional, Len Siter at Mountain Ridge CC in NJ, said to me “Golf is a game of honor.” That was all the advice I needed to settle the dispute. And I have never forgotten that. BUT FLASH!! MONDAY MORNING NEWS: Read the UK Independent Monday morning story on Facebook and read the apology that Petterson and Hull offered. Credit is due to Suzanne and Hull for reminding us that golf is a game of honor.
Actually there was a controversy on Saturday Fourballs when Captain Koch delayed a match to give her player, Caroline Hedwall, more of a rest from the morning matches. Inkster was angry. The controversy was really about WHO could tell WHAT player WHEN they are out on the tee. Under the Solheim Cup rules, only the Team Captains can do that. Before the Fourballs, all teed off, I happened to be on the practice green watching Hedwall putting. Then Stacy Lewis – going to be in her match – came out and practiced some putts (and signed an autograph for a little girl). Suddenly there was a bit of chaos and team assistants came out suggesting changes of their tee times. I didn’t see a Captain around!
AND — WHAT’S NEXT: Now that more golfers hopefully understand match play and like to watch it, it’s time to buy your tickets for the 2017 Solheim Cup in Des Moines, Iowa in the middle upper mid-west of the United States – and not far from my home state of Minnesota. But next July, set your calendar to watch the LPGA International Crown Tournament. This will be the second International Crown tournament. This tournament format has the “countries” with the “best” golfers” playing against each other in a country-vs-country tournament. In some ways, it is like the upcoming Olympics in Rio.
Nancy Berkley is an expert on women’s golf and junior-girls golf in the U.S. A special interest of hers is encouraging business women to enjoy golf with colleagues and clients. Nancy is a member of the World Golf Foundation Women’s Committee, and a member of the National Golf Foundation. Nancy is a graduate of the University of Minnesota, Harvard University, Rutgers Law School and has a degree from the Professional Management Program of Harvard Business School.
Describing herself as a good bogey golfer with permanent potential Nancy’s message to women is “Be Happy, Be Healthy, Live Longer, Play Golf.” She shares news about women’s golf – along with her opinions onwww.berkleygolfconsulting and www.nancyberkley.com.