The Solheim Cup began Sept. 20 in cool, drizzly conditions at Interlachen Country Club with European rookie Paula Marti hitting the opening tee shot. As the weather got progressively better during the morning foursomes matches, so did the Europeans.
Although the Americans found themselves down 3-1 after the opening session, captain Patty Sheehan said, “At least we’re doing better than we did last time.” Europe swept the United States, 4-0, in the opening foursomes (alternate shot) of the 2000 Cup at Loch Lomond in Luss, Scotland.
The first match set the tone for Europe with Laura Davies and Marti defeating the top two Americans, Juli Inkster and Laura Diaz, 2 up. It was the 22-year-old Spaniard, Marti, who made the difference with a superb putting effort, including a 10-foot par save on No. 16 to keep a 1-up advantage. The Europeans made five birdies and an eagle, shot 5-under-par 67 and never trailed in the contest.
“I can’t complain about anything,” Marti said. “I was the first to hit a shot in the 2002 Solheim Cup and I was a bit nervous. But after the first hole, I was ready.”
After the first point was posted on the scoreboard, two of the other three matches began to quickly swing in Europe’s favor. Helen Alfredsson and Suzann Pettersen promptly birdied Nos. 11-16 for Europe to close out Kelly Robbins and Pat Hurst.
In the final match, Swedes Annika Sorenstam and Carin Koch packed plenty of birdie power, making six birdies in their match against Meg Mallon and Kelli Kuehne. Mallon and Kuehne were 3 under when the match ended on No. 16 but still lost 3 and 2.
The lone American point came in the second match, with Beth Daniel and Wendy Ward beating Raquel Carriedo and Iben Tinning, 1 up. Daniel, who was playing in her sixth Cup, and Ward, a rookie, said they didn’t play their best, but both were pleased with the outcome. The pair won the 15th hole with a bogey to go 1 up and never relinquished the lead. Daniel played steady despite feeling uneasy because of a stomach virus.
“We are two of the best ball strikers out here on the LPGA, and neither one of us brought our ‘A’ game today,” Ward said. “So I was pleased to win. There’s something about team sports that flips my switch.”
– Jay A. Coffin