Lighting the Fires of the Solheim Cup

No one has more wide-ranging Solheim Cup experience than Dottie Pepper. A vice captain for the U.S. team that will take on Europe at Colorado Golf Club this week, Dottie has served both as player and commentator, while she also knows what it is to have done battle with her own side as well as the opposition. That was at the match of 2007 when, six minutes after the producer had advised that she and her fellow commentators were off air, this passionate soul let rip with what she thought of Laura Diaz and Sherri Steinhauer. (Though 2 up with three holes to play, the pair had missed a short putt at the 18th and finished with an anticlimactic half.) “Choking, freaking dogs,” came Dottie’s strangulated snort. Alas, the golf was still on air and, instead of talking to herself, she was sharing her frustrations with the world at large. The American team was furious. Dottie was mortified and apologised over and over. In time, the women mostly came to see the funny side of this peppery outburst, though Steinhauer has not spoken to her from that day to this. Back in 1990, Dottie attended the players’ meeting at which officialdom announced that there would be a Solheim Cup, a women’s version of the Ryder Cup. Europeans always have assumed that the Americans raised their eyebrows at the very idea of wasting their time on so potentially lopsided a contest, but Dottie says differently. “When we came out of that meeting, we were desperate to see who was poised to make the team,” she said. “There wasn’t a soul who didn’t want to be involved. It was about making history, about being involved at the outset.” Though she would go on to post a handsome total of 13 wins and two halves across six appearances, Dottie was a borderline case in ’90. In truth, she had to hole an eight-footer on the home green at the Centel Classic to steal the last place on the U.S. side ahead of Danielle Ammaccapane. Kathy Whitworth, the American captain, wasted no time in issuing a warning when they arrived at Lake Nona. “It’s because you’re such strong favourites that you need to pay special attention,” she advised. “Underdogs tend to play above themselves.” The women took heed and, though Laura Davies and Alison Nicholas had the better of Nancy Lopez and Pat Bradley in what was the first Solheim Cup game of them all, the Americans won to the tune of 11. – 4.. Though much the same yawning gulf was predicted for Dalmahoy in 1992, things started to go wrong for the Americans long before the first shot was hit. Whitworth, who had been given a second stint at the captaincy, had to leave at the start of the week because of her mother’s death. She handed over to Alice Miller, with her parting instruction one along the lines that whatever happened, no one should look at the British papers. It was too much to ask. When Beth Daniel said at her eve-of-match news conference that you could put any one of the American players in the European team and make it better, her comments were as manna from heaven for the tabloid press. The whole of the UK was up in arms and, with Whitworth out of the way, the Americans allowed their alarmed inquisitiveness to get the better of them. They read the coverage from start to finish. “We fell flat on our faces,” remembers Dottie of a week in which Europe defeated the Americans 11.-6.. “It was a shock. A huge shock.” The legendary JoAnne Carner took charge of the recalcitrant Americans at the next time of asking. It was presumably after the Europeans went into a 3-2 lead at the end of the first foursomes series that this larger-than-life figure sat everyone around a table at The Greenbrier and made each in turn say why she thought the Solheim Cup was important. “JoAnne had a vodka in hand,” recalls Dottie, “and I can remember her signing off with the words, ‘It’s not over till the fat lady sings. Make me sing!’ ” The Americans prevailed 13-7 and, to date, they have won eight times against the Europeans’ four. It was no bad thing for the event as a whole that Europe recovered from three successive losses to win at Killeen Castle two years ago. Then, in scintillating circumstances, they turned things round in the last 30 minutes.


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