Daniel and Creamer The Odd Couple

By Associated PressSeptember 9, 2005, 4:00 pm
2005 Solheim CupCARMEL, Ind. -- One of them is the oldest player in Solheim Cup history. The other is the youngest.
Beth Daniel didn't need to be reminded of their ages -- she is 48, Paula Creamer is 19 -- to realize they come from different generations. She recalled the first time they played together in an LPGA Tour event earlier this year, and the conversation Creamer had with her caddie as they walked off the first tee.
Beth Daniel and Paula Creamer
Beth Daniel and Paula Creamer earned a half-point in the morning foursomes.
``She was telling her caddie how last night she washed her hair, then straightened it, and then she marked her balls,'' Daniel said. ``That's not the conversation I would have had with my caddie.''
They were an odd pairing Friday morning at Crooked Stick, but it worked.
Creamer made a strong debut at the Solheim Cup, setting up a string of birdies to give the Americans control of the opening alternate-shot match, then hitting a clutch shot from the bunker and watching Daniel calmly roll in the 4-foot par putt to earn a halve.
Stranger still, they weren't even supposed to play together.
The Americans intended to send out Creamer with Juli Inkster for the opening match. But Inkster developed an infection in her right index finger, and she had to get an injection Thursday to control the swelling.
That's where Daniel came in.
``I found out I was playing with her yesterday on the range,'' Daniel said. ``We had never played together. We had never practiced with each other. Paula and Juli have really bonded, and I haven't bonded as much with her. I just told her, 'We're not really comfortable with each other, but let's make the most of it.'''
The most nervous player on the first tee?
Daniel, of course.
Even though Daniel has played on seven previous teams, she had never felt more pressure hitting the opening tee shot, which found the left side of the fairway. Part of that was a responsibility to lead the way for the rookies.
``But I also felt pressure playing for Juli, wanting to get points for her,'' Daniel said. ``I got two hours of sleep.''
Creamer, the first LPGA Tour rookie to earn a spot on the team, had flags painted on both cheeks and on the both sides of her ankle. She had a yellow ``Support Our Troops'' ribbon painted on her left arm.
The kid called out the European team two weeks ago by saying, ``They had better get ready, because they're going to get beat.'' There were some snickers when her 9-iron sailed over the first green as Europe took the lead.
All talk and no game?
Not quite.
Daniel noticed a change on the par-5 fifth hole, when Creamer smoked a fairway metal to the front edge of the green, then rolled in a 30-inch birdie putt to square the match. That's all it took for Creamer to look like a star in the making, a high school graduate with two LPGA victories and more than $1.2 million in earnings.
Creamer hit her next two approach shots to 6 feet and 3 feet, then holed a 15-foot birdie putt on the eighth for a 2-up lead, and made an 8-foot birdie putt to halve the next hole.
Daniel was all smiles as she walked through the clubhouse parking lot toward the 10th tee.
``I'm riding the pony,'' she said. Then she heard the crack of a metal driver ahead of her -- it was Creamer, belting another tee shot down the middle of the fairway.
They weren't perfect. Creamer missed birdie putts of 10 feet on the 11th and 6 feet on the 13th that might have put the match away. Europe hung in there, despite Carin Koch missing five birdie putts inside 12 feet, and squared the match when Creamer came up 7 feet short on a birdie putt and Daniel missed it for par on the 17th.
But if Creamer felt butterflies on the first tee, it was suffocating on the 18th.
Daniel hit her approach into a bunker, and Creamer had to stand with her left foot on the side of the hill. She blasted out to 4 feet to earn a crucial half-point that the Americans desperately needed.
``There is nothing like this,'' Creamer said before leaving to get ready for her afternoon better-ball match -- this time with the 45-year-old Inkster.
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