Big Break Ireland

Which is what the Europeans are trying to do in this 13th offering of the women’s international team competition at Killeen Castle just outside Dublin.  They are trying to break the death grip the Americans have had winning the Solheim Cup three consecutive times.

This golf competition is like no other-it has the pageantry of a partisan Friday night high school football game in Texas, complete with hand written signs, chantin’ and singin’, and even face painting-of the players.  But it is all business once they put the tees in the ground for the first foursome’s matches-you can see the tension in the faces of the players, especially the rookies, and the Euros have five of them playing in this circus atmosphere for the first time.

The Irish weather was brisk and windy for the first day’s matches which brings us to the second most important feature in this biannual event-the fashion.  Unlike the men’s version which too often tends to offer the bad fashion taste of the wife of the captain, these women know how to put it together and accessorize.   With the possible exception of Michelle Wie’s tacky shoes (pictured) and Laura Davies’s signature 4X windbreaker, these girls were dressed to the nines.

They had on so many layers to deal with the morning conditions that it looked like there was a different pairing on each hole as they were peeling off layers to acclimate to the changing conditions.

The competition was no powder puff affair as both teams showed incredible moxie in dealing with a long Jack Nicklaus golf course, quick greens, nerves, and more than a wee bit of an Irish breeze.  Michelle Wie and Christie Kerr won the first point for the Americans but Catriona Matthew and rookie Azahara Munoz won a decisive 3 and 2 match over Stacy Lewis and Angela Stanford.  Paula Creamer is in her element in this kind of grind your guts golf and she teamed with long ball Brittany Lincicome to win their foursomes match.  But the decisive swing in momentum in the morning matches came when Suzann Pettersen buried a 15 footer for birdie on the 18th hole to pull the Euros even at 2 to 2.

The afternoon four-balls were equally dramatic as the Europeans seemed to be throwing a shutout.   With five holes to play the scoreboard was a dark shade of blue as the Euros already had one match in the bank and were leading in the other three.  The unlikely American heroes might have been the always flamboyant Christina Kim and the only one in the field of Irish descent, rookie Ryann O’Toole who came barrelling from behind in the last four holes to tie their match and steal a half a point.  Paula Creamer won her second point of the day teaming with Morgan Pressel to outlast Laura Davies and Melissa Reid with a 1-up win.  But again it came down to tough Suzann Pettersen and Anna Nordqvist taking down the Wie-Kerr pairing in the pivotal anchor match 2 up.

After a day of compelling golf performances, the scoreboard read Euros 4.5- USA 3.5.  Both captains had to feel good about the play of their teams, especially their rookies, whose performances belied the early nerves and were critical to the day’s outcome.

We are looking at what promises to be three days of gripping golf drama without any panes of broken glass as they try to get their hands around this cherished piece of cut glass.

September, 2011

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