The sixteenth edition of the Solheim Cup was held back in mid-September at the magnificent Gleneagles Resort just over an hour’s drive north of Edinburgh in Scotland, and the drama-filled three days of competition led to one of the tightest and most dramatic Solheim Cup Sunday finishes in history.
Team USA, led by US legend Juli Inkster, had won the Cup on the past two occasions, in Germany in 2015 and on home soil in 2017, and were considered by the media to be hot favourites to take the title once again this year, with Inkster vying to be the first-ever captain to lead her team to three consecutive wins.
The European Team, led by their Scottish captain Catriona Matthew and vice-captain and legend of the game Laura Davies, had what was considered to be the best European Team ever assembled at a Solheim Cup, and many close to the team were confident that this group could pull off an upset.
The Solheim Cup is played over three days of the most intense competition imaginable; I’ve had many conversations with players who have tried to describe their emotions standing on the first tee about to hit that first tee shot, and having been to many Solheim Cups as a spectator, including the very first one held at Lake Nono in Florida in 1990, I can honestly say that if it was me hitting that opening tee shot I would be quite relieved to see the ball fly in the air regardless of in which direction!
Played over the newest of the three championship courses at Gleneagles, the Centenary course, the 2019 Solheim Cup literally came down to the last putt of the match on Sunday afternoon, and of course it was the stalwart of the European Team, Suzanne Petterson, who had only played two competitive tournaments in the past 18 months (following the birth of her first child Herman), who was faced with a putt from just under three metres for victory.
The scenario could not be more simple: if she made it, Europe would win, if she missed, the scores would be tied and the USA would retain the trophy.
I have heard people comment in jest that it is not blood which runs through the feisty Norwegian’s veins but ice. Pettersen has stood up time and time again for Europe under the pressure of the Solheim Cup and is the one player no-one wants to be drawn against. She is such a steely, tough competitor and can actually be a little intimidating to play with or against, kind of like a European version of American star Christie Kerr!
Even though “Tutta”, as she is known on tour, was a little short on match fitness there was absolutely no doubt in my mind that she would make that putt, which she did, defeating American Marina Alex and seal what had seemed for much of the afternoon an unlikely 14.5 to 13.5 victory.
The scenes following the winning putt were extremely emotional and a little crazy! The Europeans had virtually stolen the cup from underneath the noses of the US Team. Players, caddies, back room staff and seemingly anyone wearing a European Team jacket swarmed onto the 18th green to hug and congratulate Pettersen and captain Matthew on a remarkable win.
Apparently the celebrations at Gleneagles that evening were epic as can be imagined, some great photos emerged on social media in the wee hours of the 16th September of both teams celebrating together illustrating the camaraderie and respect which exists in the women’s game.
After the dust had settled on what has been reported as the most successful Solheim Cup in history, much has also been written about the event not only being a win for the European Team but for Women’s Golf, such were the crowds who swarmed to Scotland to watch, the high quality of the golf on a very tough layout in at times atrocious weather conditions and the incredible spirit in which the match was played, highlighted by the hug Tutta and Marina shared following their match.
We can now look forward to welcoming the stars of the 2019 Solheim Cup and other leading LPGA players to Australia in 2020 for the ISPS Handa Vic Open, to be played from 6-9 February at 13th Beach in Victoria, and the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open to be held at Royal Adelaide Golf Club the following week from 13-16 February.
About the Solheim Cup:
- The event is a biennial team event between women professional players from Europe and the USA, created by the founder of PING Golf, Norwegian-American Karsten Solheim.
- More than 90,000 spectators turned out to watch over the 3 days making it the highest attended women’s golf event ever held in the UK;
- More than 5,000 junior admissions recorded;
- 13,487 spectators took part in golf zone activities onsite;
- There was an innovative accessibility program onsite with fully accessible viewing areas and free to hire mobility scooters;
- More than 3,000 hours of broadcast coverage were featured, in 200 territories around the world;
- More than 6,000 spectators attended the live televised Opening Ceremony headlined by Scottish band Texas