Europe Wins Solheim Cup

Monday, October 9th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

LUSS, Scotland (AP) — The Europeans were good enough after all to reclaim the Solheim Cup and beat what American captain Pat Bradley termed her ``Dream Team.''

``If we wanted to stop all the talk we were no good and shut everybody up, we had to win today,'' said England's Laura Davies, who has played in all six Solheims and won more points than anybody else.

``We can win under a European flag. We don't need a world team to beat the Americans and, as far as I know, there's no world flag to play under.''

A Swedish flag might have been enough as Europe won 14 1/2 -11 1/2 Sunday in the closest Solheim in history, cutting the U.S. lead to 4-2 in the biennial showcase of women's professional golf.

Leading by five points entering the 12 singles, Europe needed just four more to win for the first time since '92 — also in Scotland on a wet course at the Dalmahoy.

Swedes won 3 1/2 of those points and it was Swede Carin Koch who sank the deciding 10-foot birdie putt on 17. She was also the motivator Sunday at a Loch Lomond course soaked by 10 inches of rain last month and almost nonstop showers for a week.

During a 1-hour, 40-minute rain delay Sunday at Loch Lomond as the Americans were mounting a furious comeback in singles, it was Koch who conducted a pep rally around the putting green.

At that point, the U.S. had won a match, was leading in seven and level in two with Europe leading only two. Had it stayed that way, the Americans would have kept the Solheim, the women's rendition of the Ryder Cup.

Koch's deciding 2 and 1 victory over Michele Redman came just a minute after fellow Swede Catrin Nilsmark closed out Rosie Jones 1-up on the 18th. Those two wins broke an 11 1/2 -11 1/2 tie as the Americans had rallied from five points behind entering the singles.

Europe, which took an unprecedented 4-0 lead in Friday's foursomes and never trailed, had six Swedes. Scottish captain Dale Reid picked four of them as wild cards — one at the expense of fellow Scot Catriona Matthew.

``I just want to thank Dale right now for giving us a chance and having faith in us,'' said Helen Alfredsson, one of the choices and a 4 and 3 winner over Beth Daniel. Koch, Nilsmark and Liselotte Neumann were the other Swedish picks.

``This is it, this is it. This is the best,'' said Reid, who celebrated afterward embraced by Koch cradling her 23-month-old son Oliver and Nilsmark holding her 3-year-old daughter Tuva. Tuva means ``divot'' in Swedish.

There was also Ryder Cup-like controversy on the final day, and Sweden's Annika Sorenstam was in the middle.

Sorenstam chipped in from 25 feet off the 13th green in her fourball match Sunday morning for what appeared to be a birdie. But the Americans protested she had played out of turn — she was not the farthest from the hole.

Sorenstam, who broke down in tears, replayed the shot and just missed. American Pat Hurst — playing with Kelly Robbins — dropped her short birdie putt to increase the lead to two holes.

Hurst and Robbins went on to win 2 and 1 for the only U.S. victory in fourball to leave Europe a 9 1/2 -4 1/2 lead going into singles.

``It is just really sad when you have tournaments like this,'' Sorenstam said. ``It is sad to see that the ugly part of them came out because both Pat and Kelly are the nicest they have. It is just sad to see that — that they don't even have sportsmanship.''

``Our goal was to make this a first-class event in the sense that we would show the men how to do it. Personally, I don't think it turned out that way.''

Robbins apologized publicly afterward with American captain Pat Bradley taking the responsibility for making Sorenstam play over. The incident also seemed to spur on the U.S. in singles.

``The rules and the spirit of the game are almost one,'' Bradley said. ``We played within the rules of the game. When the rules of the game are upheld, the spirit of the game is upheld.''

Both sides agreed the almost two-hour rain delay was critical in slowing the U.S. rally and giving Europe time to regroup.

``Golf is not supposed to have timeouts and there were a lot of timeouts this week,'' said American Meg Mallon, who beat Patricia Meunier Lebouc 1-up. ``Some swung in our favor and some swung the other way. We went out and played our hearts out and we almost took this thing, which would have been unbelievable.''

Davies said it was the biggest win of her career.

``No individual championship can top this. It's the U.S. Open and British Open rolled into one,'' she said. ``It looked like we had blown it, it looked like we had buckled. This is the best day in my golfing career.

``I think the rightful team won it and it would have been a shame if an incident (Sorenstam's) would have turned the tide — and make no mistake, it was turning the tide and having an impact until Carin stepped up.''