AUCHTERARDER, SCOTLAND | Even with two days to go before the Solheim Cup starts at Gleneagles, emotions are to the fore. Understandably enough, American veteran Stacy Lewis was in tears when she realised on Monday that a back injury which had first made itself felt a little more than a week ago at the Cambia Portland Classic had left her with no option but to pull out of the match, to be replaced by Ally McDonald, who became the US side’s sixth Solheim Cup rookie.
“It’s up there pretty high,” Lewis said on Tuesday when describing where this ranked on her all-time list of disappointments. “I was glad we didn’t do this (Tuesday afternoon) press conference yesterday because I don’t think I could have gotten a word out.”
Again Mary Bea Porter-King, the captain of the US Junior Solheim Cup side, had to dab at her eyes when she talked at the juniors’ opening ceremony about how much the women’s game owed to the Solheim family.
Not just for their sponsorship of the Solheim Cup but, as it turned out, for sponsoring her as an individual. Without the Solheims’ help, she said she would never have been able to embark on her career as a professional.
Where past posters have shown the women posing prettily for the task ahead, this year’s are headed “Let the Battle Begin,” with each of the players in the two lineups fairly dripping with determination.
An inspirational video organised for the European Solheim Cup side on Monday night detonated still more floods. The video, which was arranged by the Ladies European Tour, consisted of comments from the players’ families about how proud they were of their offspring. “Everyone cried,” said Anne van Dam, “except for Bronte (Law) that is.”
Bronte could explain. “Nothing makes me cry, it’s just not something that I do,” she said. Though van Dam went on to suggest, lightly, that Bronte was “the tough one” in the team, Law said that she, personally, saw her inability to shed the odd tear as “a weakness” rather than anything else.
Heaven knows whether Europe’s Jodi Ewart Shadoff and America’s Angel Yin were reduced to tears at the discovery that their clubs had not arrived by mid-morning Tuesday. There was still time, of course, though a contingency plan for the two of them to play each other in the singles sans their own equipment was an entertaining prospect.
The mood for this Solheim Cup has to no small extent been dictated by the team pictures which are everywhere apparent. Where past posters have shown the women posing prettily for the task ahead, this year’s are headed “Let the Battle Begin,” with each of the players in the two lineups fairly dripping with determination. The nearest thing to a smile, would you believe, comes from none other than Suzann Petterson, whose fearsome glare, when she is not best pleased, can only be matched among the opposition by that of Danielle Kang or, in the men’s game, by Ian Poulter.
In which connection, the question arose as to whether women golfers are more emotional than their male equivalents. Ken Brown, of Ryder Cup and commentary fame, decided on a draw, suggesting that it was more down to the characters than the different sexes. He could not think of whom would have quite the same flagrant passion as a Juli Inkster, the US captain, though he felt that Luke Donald would be the equivalent of a Catriona Matthew, her opposite number. “Like her, Luke would be quiet and efficient in doing everything that needed to be done,” Brown said.
Judy Murray, mother of Andy Murray of tennis-playing fame and one of the speakers at Aberdeen Standard Investments’ diversity conference in the Gleneagles Hotel Tuesday, has always found girls the more emotional of the sexes during a sport’s learning process.
“A girl’s confidence,” she once said, “is much more easily shaken than a boy’s. You have to make a girl feel good about herself if she’s going to be emotionally in control. If, on the other hand, you have said something wrong, she will struggle to forget it. Boys tend to ‘park’ things a whole lot more easily.”
In a golfing context, girl golfers on this side of the Atlantic are definitely less sensitive than they once were and more inclined to be as Americans in acknowledging that they can play a bit. It definitely applies to this year’s Junior Solheim exponents. While the Americans were saying before the off that they are better bonded than they have ever been, the Europeans did not appear to be remotely fazed at coming into the week having lost four of the last five matches. They believe that home advantage and a strong team morale will make all the difference this time around.
In truth, the Europeans’ confidence was a bit of an eye-opener.
When, on Monday, the two sides were having their pictures taken, separately, in the interview area in the media centre, Hannah Darling, a 16-year-old Scot, suggested to her team-mates that they should do a “pretend” press conference.
One of them started things rolling by asking a couple of others about a make-believe opening match against their US rivals, “I gather you two were 13-under par today. … You must have smashed them.”
The Americans, for their part, did not indulge in such fun and games. Nor did they go in for the “Let the Battle Begin” glares of their Solheim Cup elders. They opted for something more traditional, with the emphasis on looking like the bunch of charmers that they are.
Captains Juli Inkster and Catriona Matthew pose with their teams in advance of the Solheim Cup. Photo: Jane Barlow, PA Images via Getty Images
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