Europe rallies around an English teenager
PARKER, Colo. (AP) — Of all the autographs Paula Creamer signed at the Solheim Cup for young girls, this was by far the strangest request.
It came from a 17-year-old who had just steamrolled her.
Charley Hull, fun and fearless over three days at Colorado Golf Club, put the finishing touch on a tone-setting match by driving the green with a 3-wood on the 291-yard 14th hole for a 5-and-4 victory. It was the shortest match all week, and the first point Sunday for Europe in what became a record rout over the Americans.
That’s when Hull approached Creamer with a golf ball, a marker and a favor for a friend back home in England.
“Honestly, it was for my friend.” Hull said. “He’s like, ‘Can you please get Paula Creamer’s autograph?’ And I said, ‘OK, then,’ so ... I just like, I got it.”
Once the laughter subsided, Hull looked straight ahead, oblivious to the moment, and said, “But anyway, it’s been a really good week.”
It was a spectacular week for Europe, which brought six Solheim Cup rookies to the mile-high air outside Denver and left a strong American team out of breath.
“That was my concern, that with such a young team, with nothing to lose, it just seemed like they were a little bit looser,” U.S. captain Meg Mallon said. “They were making more putts, and we were not. And that’s what it came down to.”
The Europeans seized control by sweeping the Saturday afternoon fourballs, with five rookies among eight players in the lineup. That gave them a 10½-5½ lead, and no team from any professional cup competition has ever lost from that position. Europe never let up, and the 18-10 margin was the largest since the Solheim Cup began in 1990.
On its seventh try, Europe won the Solheim Cup for the first time on American soil. It was the perfect gift to captain Liselotte Neumann, who 25 years ago became the first Swede to win a major in the U.S. Women’s Open.
Her best move was using two of her four captain’s picks on Hull and Jodi Ewart-Shadoff of England, a rookie partnership that led off the Saturday afternoon sweep by winning the most dynamic match of the week, 2 up over Creamer and 18-year-old Lexi Thompson.
“She has a special game and she brings a lot of energy to our team, and she’s just a terrific player,” Neumann said of Hull. “She plays fearless, and it was just awesome to have her on our team. We all love Charley.”
In a battle of teens, Hull and Thompson traded birdies throughout the day until Hull hit 9-iron just over the edge of the bunker to 4 feet for birdie on the par-3 17th for a 1-up lead. Ewart-Shadoff finished it off by blasting a driver some 30 yards past Thompson, setting up a 9-iron to 10 feet for a conceded birdie.
Caroline Hedwall, the 24-year-old Swede who played at Oklahoma State, was the star of this European team. She asked Neumann to play every match, and then earned her spot in Solheim Cup history as the only player to win all five. Her birdie on the 18th to beat Michelle Wie assured that Europe would retain the cup.
Carlota Ciganda of Spain, who couldn’t break 80 on her own ball in her debut Friday afternoon, was unstoppable the rest of the way and won three points. Catriona Matthew, the 43-year-old Scot, made the winning putt for Europe for the second time in 10 years.
Hull, however, seemed to be in the middle of everything.
She only turned pro in February, and while she hasn’t won on the Ladies European Tour, Hull had five runner-up finishes to get everyone’s attention. She throws all her energy into every swing, with a corkscrew finish and then body language that leans left or right, whichever way she needs the golf ball to go. On one swing, the shaft of her driver got tangled up in her blonde ponytail.
“I didn’t really feel that nervous, to be honest,” Hull said. “Because this is how I always look at golf. I’m not going to die if I miss it. Just hit it, and find it, and hit it again.”
Creamer could relate. She was 19 when she made her Solheim Cup debut. Creamer’s personality is brasher, and she said in the weeks leading up to the 2005 Solheim Cup that Europe should prepare to get beaten. The American teen won her singles match, 7 and 5, against Laura Davies.
Hull was so refreshing that even the ultra-intense Creamer couldn’t help but smile when the teen knocked in a 45-foot birdie putt on the sixth hole that gave Hull the lead for good. As for that autograph request? That was more surreal.
“Charley, she was ... that was ... I don’t know,” Creamer said, trying to contain laughter. “I’m going to take it as one of the highlights of my career right there. ... And that’s cool. But Charley is going to be around for a long time, and it’s pretty neat to see the future of their team. She was a good player and she presented her country very well.”
As for the Americans? Mallon attributed the outcome to putting, which is the case in most every cup competition, and was the case at Colorado Golf Club. Despite the record margin of victory for Europe, 21 of the 28 matches reached the 17th hole.
The Americans now have lost back-to-back for the first time, and have to wait two more years to try to win it back in Germany. Hull most certainly will be waiting for them, by then beyond the stage of asking for autographs.