The cream of Europe’s female golfers returned home from the weekend’s Solheim Cup unique amongst their peers as the first European team to win the trophy on US soil and, by extension, the first to retain the trophy in its 23-year history.
Liselotte Neumann’s charges returned home historic, too, in their margin of victory: the 18-10 defeat handed out to the home side the largest ever margin of victory in the tournament, surpassing the 7-point win enjoyed by Europe in 2003 and the US in the tournament’s inaugural year.
Nor was this a victory won in the glamour of expectation. With Meg Mallon’s US team boasting five of the world’s top-20 players and only three rookies, the visiting team could only counter with three ranked in the same echelons and a massive six rookie talents. In the face of such odds, however, sporting legends are written. And it seems appropriately significant that one such rookie, 17 year-old Charley Hull, should have led the European charge on the tournament’s final day, her 5 & 4 victory over US World number 11 Paula Creamer setting the tone for a singles schedule which saw Europe first retain the trophy and then win it outright as US competition bowed and eventually broke.
In truth, from a first day which saw Europe open up a 5-3 overall lead, somehow Mallon’s team never seemed likely to overhaul the deficit, even though they briefly cut Europe’s lead to a single point in the second day’s Morning Foursomes session. From the afternoon’s Fourballs, however, Europe went for the jugular securing all 4 points for the session to leave a passionate home crowd reeling.
Come the third day, when Europe secured three of the first five points on offer, suddenly an unprecedented European victory was all but guaranteed and though Lexi Thompson battled gainly to secure her point against Europe’s Caroline Masson (another of Neumann’s rookies), ultimately the visitors proved themselves too composed, too strong and simply too good for a US team that Mallon conceded had ‘got our butts kicked’.
Having four years ago seemed in danger of falling irretrievably far behind a US team that had won three Solheim Cups at a canter, suddenly Europe looks a force to be reckoned with again. And with eight of their team younger than 30, this is a generation that surely has more records to write in its name as yet.
For the US, now is the time for reflection and, perhaps, to lick some raw wounds. Theirs is also a team defined by its youth and also writ large in its experience. It would be a surprise if most of this team didn’t find itself on the plane to Europe in two years time, seeking revenge and no doubt a little redress.
The coming years could, indeed, be a golden age for the Solheim Cup.
Image from dailymail.co.uk – Thanks!