Americans Stick It to Europeans

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2005 Solheim CupCARMEL, Ind. -- Captain Nancy Lopez needed more energy and more wins from her American team at the Solheim Cup on Saturday morning.
 
No problem.

Christina Kim
Christina Kim helped give the U.S. an emotional boost Saturday morning -- and a point.
Rookies Christina Kim and Natalie Gulbis took a big early lead in the day's first match, riled up the crowd for their teammates and even pumped some excitement into the American veterans to help the U.S. win three of four matches and forge a 6-6 tie at the midway point.
 
Another round of four best-ball matches was set for later Saturday before the event ends Sunday with 12 singles matches.
 
After blowing four of six leads on the back nine Friday, it didn't take long for the Americans to sense a change in their play -- or the crowd's enthusiasm.
 
'We did what we needed to do,' said Kim, the most boisterous of the team's three first-time players. 'And the crowd was great today, so much better than yesterday.'
 
Gulbis and Kim made Lopez's decision to send them out first look brilliant.
 
Kim, a crowd favorite, urged the crowd to roar. It kept Gulbis smiling and relaxed, and the two made enough shots to close out two European rookies, French partners Gwladys Nocera and Ludivine Kreutz, 4-and-2 for the first American win in the alternate-shot format.
 
The enthusiasm seemed contagious.
 
With Kim and Gulbis watching the from the 16th hole, having clinched their victory moments earlier, 45-year-old Juli Inkster rolled in an 8-foot birdie putt for a 3-and-2 victory over England's Laura Davies and Sweden's Maria Hjorth. Rookie Paula Creamer put Inkster in the right spot, and when the ball dropped, Inkster jumped as Kim and Gulbis paraded around the green with arms raised.
 
'That was great, that's what we want,' American assistant captain Donna Caponi said.
 
Michele Redman, 40, joined the club by pumping her fist and waving her visor after making a long par-saving putt at No. 17. It kept the U.S. 1-up, a match it eventually clinched on the final hole over Annika Sorenstam and Catriona Matthew.
 
Redman was a late addition after Cristie Kerr woke up with a stiff neck, and her slow play irritated Sorenstam, the world's best female golfer.
 
But it was Matthew's errant tee shot at, into the water down the right side, that gave the U.S. a 2-up victory.
 
'Someone was pounding at my door at 5:20 a.m.,' Redman said. 'I was her first choice. I wanted to prove to her (Lopez) I could do it.'
 
The only U.S. stumble came in the third match. Sophie Gustafson and Carin Koch, both Swedes, won four straight holes at the turn and coasted to a 5-and-3 victory over Laura Diaz and Wendy Ward.
 
Ward is now 2-7-1 all-time in three Solheim Cup appearances.
 
That victory allowed the Americans to do what seemed unthinkable only one day earlier -- beating both of Europe's most reliable winners. Sorenstam and Davies, one of the game's biggest winners, share the record for most Solheim victories at 18. But they couldn't hold off the Americans on Saturday morning.
 
In the afternoon matches, Europe's Iben Tinning and Trish Johnson faced Inkster and Beth Daniel, and Koch and Matthew played Kerr and Creamer. In the other two matches, it was Gustafson-Suzann vs. Rosie Jones-Meg Mallon, and Davies-Sorenstam vs. Hurst-Kim.
 
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