2005 SOLHEIM CUP
"These players played their hearts out. It's awesome. They were ready. They weren't afraid of it. We've been here for each other. It was a great team effort the whole week."
–Nancy Lopez, 2005 United States Team Captain
UNITED STATES • CHAMPION
As September dawns, the club unveils to the international golf community its newly improved facilities. Two 12-person teams of women professional golfers arrive at Crooked Stick to square off for the Solheim Cup matches. The past four matches have been hotly contested as the official web site explains.
The 2005 Solheim Cup sets up a serious rivalry between the U.S. and European teams. The U.S. team is looking to regain the Cup on American soil after a European victory at Barsebäck Golf & Country Club in Sweden in 2003. The European team, captained again by Sweden’s Catrin Nilsmark, is vying for a first-time Solheim Cup win in the U.S. in the ninth playing of The Solheim Cup at Crooked Stick Golf Club in Carmel, Indiana, from September 9th–11th.
Before the matches begin, 19-year-old Solheim rookie Paula Creamer adds fuel to the rivalry fire by making a prediction about her European opponents. “They’re going to get beat,” she tells the press. World number one, and all-time Solheim Cup point leader Annika Sörenstam responds. “We don’t voice our opinions the way they do. Hopefully, we can let out clubs do the talking.” And so, with emotions running high, the stage at Crooked Stick is set for what proves to be one of the most exciting matches in the Cup’s fifteen-year history.
In front of packed bleachers and swarms of singing and chanting spectators, Crooked Stick’s Tony Pancake introduces the players on the first tee for Friday morning’s opening foursomes matches. Despite the home crowd’s enthusiasm, day one gets off to a fast start for the opposing team, as the Europeans prevail in three of four alternate-shot matches. Afternoon four-ball (team better ball) matches fare better for the U.S. as they win their first two matches with Rosie Jones and Meg Mallon defeating Maria Hjorth and Iben Tinning 3 & 2, while Christie Kerr and Natalie Gulbis prevail 2 & 1 over Sophie Gustafson and Karen Stupples. The remaining two matches, however, go to the visitors. And for only the second time in Cup history, the Europeans are ahead at the conclusion of the first day, leading the U.S. 5-3.
On Saturday, a hard-charging U.S. team captures three of the four morning foursomes matches. Victories by teams of Christina Kim and Natalie Gulbis, Paula Creamer and Juli Inkster, and Michele Redman and Pat Hurst ignite the sell-out crowd. Amidst chants of “USA, USA, USA” echoing through the Crooked Stick grounds, the home team squares the competition at 6-6.
In the afternoon four-ball play, neither the U.S. nor Europe takes advantage with each squad earning two points by winning one match and halving the two others. Despite playing to a draw, the action on the course proves anything but mundane, as three of the four matches reach the treacherous 18th hole.
Talking to the press afterward, 48-year-old U.S. Solheim Cup veteran, Beth Daniel, laments on the difficulty of the tee shot on Crooked Stick’s famous closing hole. “It’s a tough shot . . . you can’t miss it left or right,” she says. “You have to stand up there and know what kind of shot you’re going to hit and you have to pull it off. It’s one of the most difficult tee shots probably in the game of golf.”
Day two ends with the two teams standing all square at eight points apiece. Only one other time in the Solheim Cup history (1994) has the competition been tied heading into Sunday singles matches.
Beth Daniel sums up the task ahead, “The first two days are basically exhibition golf. And then you have to go out and win your singles.”
All through the week, massive crowds turn out to get a glimpse of the world’s best women players, and Sunday at Crooked Stick proves no exception. Early on in Sunday singles play, the heavily pro-U.S. crowd delights in what looks to be a rout for the red, white, and blue.
Wins by Juli Inkster, Paula Creamer, Pat Hurst, Laura Diaz, and Christina Kim give the first five matches to the Americans. The 13-point total leaves team USA just one and a half points away from recapturing the Cup with seven matches still in play.
Annika Sörenstam ends the drought for Europe with a 4 & 3 win over Beth Daniel. American Natalie Gulbis all but decides the outcome with a 2 & 1 victory over Maria Hjorth on the 17th hole—but Catrin Nilsmark’s team refuses to fold. They post consecutive wins in the next three matches—bringing their point tally to 12. Needing just 14 points to retain the Cup, the streak rekindles Europe’s hopes. With five matches on the course, three points separate the teams. In the decisive match, American Meg Mallon holds a 3-up lead over Karen Stupples heading to the par-five 15th hole. A birdie by the European, however, cuts her deficit to 2-down with three holes to go. Mallon, competing on her eighth U.S. team ends the suspense on 16 with a par to halve the hole. Two up with two to play, Mallon stands dormie—and the Solheim Cup returns to team USA.
Less than 300 yards from Pete and Alice Dye’s back porch, Meg Mallon, a two-time U.S. Open champion, adds a fitting exclamation point to the America’s triumph. She calmly pars the 17th hole to close out Stupples 3 & 1, clinch the Cup, and become the all-time leading U.S. point earner in Solheim history.
“It’s unbelievable to play for your country,” Mallon remarks afterwards. “These fans have been amazing…”
The amazing fans Mallon refers to—103,000 for the week, an all-time Solheim Cup high—travel to Crooked Stick from 46 states and 11 different countries. The turnout exceeds the previous record crowd that gathered for the matches in Sweden just two years earlier. That event established a benchmark for success in the eyes of LPGA commissioner Ty Votaw. “I think the 2003 event just blew everybody away by how Sweden received us,” he tells The Indianapolis Star. “We had a tough act to follow in terms of the experience for the fans and the players and everything else. I think Crooked Stick has topped it.”