USA All the Way


Edina, Minn. -- Patty Sheehan turned cartwheels ' literally. Eleven American players and their caddies swarmed. Hugs and kisses and tears abounded. Team USA had won the Solheim Cup.
Captain Sheehan has won 35 times on the LPGA Tour. She owns six major championship titles. The 45-year-old dynamo is a member of the Golf Hall of Fame. But nothing, she said, compared to this ' captaining the Americans to victory. Im so proud of my players this smile may never leave my face, she said.
There was good reason to express American pride on this crisp, sunny Sunday afternoon. The Europeans started the day with a two-point lead. Team USA would have to win at least seven of the 12 singles matches and tie another to wrest the Cup back from Europe. The Yanks had accomplished such a feat in 1996 in Wales, erasing a 9-7 deficit by winning 10 of the 12 singles matches to take the Cup, 17-11.
The male American caddies that day in Europe decided not to shave to generate some good luck. The bag-carrying men eschewed the razors again, this time. Were the dirty dozen, beamed Bobby Inman, Meg Mallons caddie. The gritty guys may never shave again.
Early wins by Juli Inkster and Laura Diaz eliminated the Europeans advantage. The Yanks steamrolled their way to a 15-12 win. Team USA has now prevailed in five of the seven biennial matches, never losing on home soil.
The Cup was clinched for the Americans in a most inauspicious fashion. With the Yanks needing at least 14 points to recapture the prize, Pat Hurst earned point No. 14 with a 4-and-2 victory over Mhairi McKay. One hole back, in the final match, Rosie Jones was two-up on Karine Icher as they played the 15th. Icher was on the par-4 in regulation, 25 feet away. Jones, who missed the green short and right, hit a deft chip from the gnarly rough to 2 feet. Icher whiffed her approach putt, leaving it five feet short. She blew her next one four feet past, snatched up her ball in disgust and conceded the putt and the hole to Rosie.
And just like that, Jones had assured at least one-half point for the Americans and the Cup was theirs. There was no dramatic clinching putt. Rosie just picked up her mark and walked to 16 tee. There was no explosive celebration. Jones didnt even realize what she had just accomplished with her teammates. And those teammates werent there to see it happen. They were all gathered 400 yards away, behind the 16th green.
After Rosie closed out Icher on 16, the American party ensued. Weve got the Cup back, the five-time Solheim player yelled. This is so sweet.
The team gathered in the middle of the green. Inkster, who is now 4-and-1 in singles play, led the cheer: USA All The Way!
Michele Redman, who halved her match with Suzann Pettersen by losing the final five holes, had earned a half-point, but blown a half as well. Still, the second-time Solheim player had nothing to lament. This is a team win. And we won as a team, she said.
It gets more special every time, said Kelly Robbins, who has now been a part of four winning American teams. With her 5-and-3 win over Maria Hjorth, Kelly is now 4-0-1 in Solheim singles play.
Solheim Cup rookie Wendy Ward played Annika Sorenstam, the best player in the world, to a draw. Ive never experienced anything like this, exulted Wendy. Her smile has never been so wide. I havent won a tournament this year, but this makes the year a real success.
On the flip side, European captain Dale Reid said, Well be celebrating next year in Barseback (Sweden), when we win it back.
The all-time Solheim Cup points leader, Laura Davies, summed up losing the most prestigious international event in womens golf: Its miserable.