LONDON (Reuters) - The Solheim Cup has developed a penchant down the years for showcasing the good, the bad and the downright ugly of women’s golf and the 14th edition was no exception.
The fans at the St Leon-Rot Club in south west Germany were treated to some dazzling golf by the U.S. and Europe teams in the women’s version of the Ryder Cup but ultimately the matches will be remembered for an unseemly final-day row that left two of the main protagonists in tears.
No one did more than Charley Hull to highlight the best of women’s golf and it was sad to see the English teenager and 20-year-old opponent Alison Lee needing a shoulder to cry on as they trooped off the 18th green on Sunday morning.
The pair were clearly stunned by what had taken place 15 minutes earlier when Lee mistakenly believed that Hull and morning fourballs partner Suzann Pettersen had conceded a 16-inch putt and the American picked her ball up on the 17th green.
The referee had no option but to award the hole to the Europeans who said later they had offered no sign of a concession to Lee and partner Brittany Lincicome.
Pettersen did a U-turn on Monday, apologising for a lack of sportsmanship, but the incident enraged the U.S. players and fired them up to overturn a 10-6 deficit and dominate the 12 singles to score a remarkable victory by 14 1/2 points to 13 1/2.
Laura Davies, a veteran of 12 European Solheim Cup campaigns, and defeated 2013 U.S. captain Meg Mallon were also bitterly disappointed by what the BBC described as ‘gimmegate’.
“I’m disgusted,” Davies told Sky Sports. “We have got our best player, Charley Hull, who has just won a point, and she is in floods of tears. That tells you the wrong thing was done.”
Mallon gave a similar verdict on her Twitter account.
“It’s not the spirit of the Solheim family,” said the American. “This is a game and somehow we lose perspective in these matches. #sad.”
The incident followed close on the heels of an unsavoury finger-waving exchange between U.S. captain Juli Inkster and European counterpart Carin Koch 24 hours earlier.
It was alleged one of Koch’s vice-captains had given direct advice to one of the European players in contravention of the rules.
Former world number one Annika Sorenstam denied the claims, Koch’s deputy saying she had learned the lessons from Colorado two years ago when she was the target of similar suggestions.
The evident friction between the teams at St Leon-Rot should not, however, diminish the quality of the golf on display.
Pettersen and Hull stole the show on Saturday with a startling comeback from four down with seven holes to go as they defeated a stunned Morgan Pressel and Paula Creamer on the 18th green of an extraordinary birdie-laden foursomes encounter.
On Friday, Carlota Ciganda produced the shot of the week when the Spaniard holed out with a nine-iron from 135 yards in semi-darkness.
While Hull was the standout performer for Europe for the second Solheim Cup in a row, Cristie Kerr and Gerina Piller turned out to be the linchpins of the American team.
Kerr and Piller picked up three and a half points from their four matches and the latter kept the U.S. alive in the singles when she holed a knee-trembling putt to stop Caroline Masson getting the half-point Europe wanted to retain the trophy.
At the end of it all, Koch was keen to accentuate the positives.
“We talked and we hugged and it’s all good,” Swede Koch said of Inkster. “It seems like these things happen but in the end I think we all need to focus on this great, excellent event and how good it is for women’s golf.”
Editing by Martyn Herman