LONDON (Reuters) - New European Solheim Cup captain Annika Sorenstam has promised to handle things differently if there is a repeat of the unsavoury incident that marred last year’s defeat by the United States.
Tempers flared on the final day of the women’s equivalent of the Ryder Cup in Germany six months ago when European player Suzann Pettersen refused to concede a 16-inch putt to Alison Lee and the American picked her ball up on the 17th green.
That left the referee no option but to award the hole to Pettersen and fourballs partner Charley Hull, leading to victory for the pair against Lee and Brittany Lincicome and accusations of a lack of sportsmanship by the home team.
“It will be handled differently (next time),” Sorenstam told Reuters in a telephone interview from California after being announced as fellow Swede Carin Koch’s successor on Wednesday.
“We need to put it behind us. Suzann stood up, Carin did what she could and I think we need to respect them but at the same time move on.
“There were so many other wonderful stories last year, the golf from the American team was exceptional on the last day for instance,” added Sorenstam, one of Koch’s vice-captains at St Leon-Rot.
“If we are going to grow this game we have to think about the positives too and that is my intention.
“It’s not just me, it’s the whole team. We all experienced it and I think everybody learned something from it. I don’t think we’ll get in that situation next year.”
Former world number one Sorenstam, the finest female golfer of her generation, has been involved in her fair share of Solheim Cup controversy.
Last year’s ‘gimmegate’ incident followed close on the heels of a finger-waving exchange between Koch and U.S. captain Juli Inkster 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.
Sorenstam denied the claims at the time, saying she had learned the lessons from Colorado in 2013 when she was the target of similar suggestions.
“I’ve been involved in a few colourful incidents but it was never planned that way,” the Swede told Reuters on Wednesday. “It just kind of happened but I have also been a lead player in several Solheim Cups and I think that’s something to do with it.
“We all know what you get in a team event like this, it can get a little emotional, there’s a lot of pressure, sometimes maybe it goes a little too far, but I’m hoping moving forward we’ll learn something and we’ll have a wonderful competition.
“It’s all very intense, very competitive, and when you represent a team you feel the responsibility, not necessarily carrying everyone on your shoulders, but that you’re not letting anybody down,” said Sorenstam.
“It’s not just the Solheim, it’s also the Ryder Cup and other team events in sport. People care, it’s blood, sweat and tears ... that’s what makes the event special and why it stands out from other events.”
Sorenstam, who won 10 major championships during her playing career and has lived in the U.S. for several years, said she was looking forward to pitting her wits against Inkster again next year.
“I respect Juli as a player, I always have,” said the 45-year-old Swede, referring to the seven-times major winner. “She’s been an incredible role model for a lot of people.
“She’s a fierce competitor, the players loved her as a captain last year, they were really pleased with her, the way she handled things.
“I’m excited about being the opposing captain to someone who’s done so much for the game of golf.”
Editing by Toby Davis