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Pepper Raises European Golfers’ Ire

September 20, 1998

DUBLIN, Ohio (AP) _ Was it poor sportsmanship or exuberant patriotism?

The Europeans were angered by Dottie Pepper’s cheerleading during Saturday’s morning matches and used that as inspiration for their comeback in Sunday’s singles matches at the Solheim Cup.

On the 18th hole Saturday, Pepper’s alternate-shots partner, Juli Inkster, hit a lag putt within inches of the cup. After Europe conceded the par, Pepper exhorted the partisan gallery by ``raising the roof″ _ lifting her arms over her head.

The Europeans were angered by what they perceived as a lack of sportsmanship, since Helen Alfredsson and Marie Laure de Lorenzi had not finished play on the hole. They eventually conceded a 1-up victory to Pepper and Inkster.

While hitting a punching bag in the fitness trailer at the end of the day, Annika Sorenstam said she envisioned Pepper’s face on it. Sorenstam then encouraged her teammates to hit the bag a few times.

European coach Pia Nilsson said of Pepper, ``She does whatever she wants. She’s competitive. But it’s not something I would do.″

U.S. captain Judy Rankin defended her player.

``I want to know what player in the field would not do that,″ she said. ``Dottie is exuberant, Dottie gets excited, but I have not known Dottie to be rude.″

Pepper’s voice cracked as she spoke after winning her Sunday match.

``This crowd needs to be into it,″ said Pepper, 4-0 this week. ``I show my emotions to the crowd as appreciation for pushing us harder. This crowd has been our 13th player this week.″

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CAPTAIN JUDY: Despite her protestations that a captain doesn’t decide the matches, Rankin did her part to run her record to 2-0 as the U.S. captain.

It was Rankin who paired Pepper and Inkster in the first group off the tee in the first alternate-shot match Friday. Several players later said that the Pepper-Inkster group’s emotional 3-and-1 victory provided an early dose of confidence and adrenalin to the American side.

Rankin kept them together for a repeat victory on Saturday morning.

It was Rankin who created pairings that gave the U.S. record leads after each of the first two days. And it was Rankin who seemed to push all the right buttons when it came to who wasn’t playing.

Rankin’s two captain’s choices _ Rosie Jones and Sherri Steinhauer _ went 5-2 with the latter clinching the Cup victory Sunday. Nilsson had five captain’s picks, selecting four players from her native Sweden, and they combined to go 5-11-1.

Rankin makes many of her decisions on instinct instead of statistics, on emotion instead of mechanics.

``I try to do a few things to make my team bond together,″ she said. ``I try to do a few things to make them believe how good they are.″

One last Rankin touch was asking her players to insulate themselves from the family commitments and other distractions that make an already grueling week even longer and more tiring.

``I asked them not to do that. I asked them to just pretend that once they got here we were here for the duration,″ she said.

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FREE ADMISSION: LPGA Commissioner Jim Ritts announced that, beginning in January, the tour would allow kids 15 and under into tournaments free when accompanied by a paying adult.

And not just one kid. ``You could have one adult and five kids,″ he said.

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SOLHEIM CLIPS: Karsten Solheim, club manufacturer and founder of the Solheim Cup, remained at his home in Arizona this week. He is suffering from Parkinson’s disease. Several family members were on hand, including his wife, Louise, and son, John. ... Europe’s Laura Davies was upset because she felt the angle of the 11th tee box had been altered just to restrict her prodigious drives. The LPGA, which sets up the Muirfield Village Golf Course, denied the accusation.

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