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Thursday, Feb. 29, 2024
The Observer

Klonsinski: Solheim upset offers glimpse at golf's potential

The most spectacular upset of the weekend wasn’t Ole Miss getting literally handed a victory over Alabama in Tuscaloosa. In fact, it didn’t happen on a football field.

It didn’t even occur in the United States, actually.

No, the best upset in the American sporting world last weekend happened far from American soil, on a golf course in St. Leon-Rot, Germany.

In what can only be described as one of the greatest comebacks in sports — let alone golf — history, the American ladies playing in the Solheim Cup won eight and a half of the possible 12 points during Sunday’s final round of play, the singles matches, meaning they overcame a massive deficit and won back the Cup from the Europeans by half a point.

In case the massive comeback wasn’t enough, though, it all began with a controversial moment early Sunday morning that became the bitter and emotionally-charged turning point of the tournament.

Many sports fans are familiar with the Ryder Cup, in which the best male golfers from the United States take on the best of the Europeans. It’s an underrated and extremely exciting event that takes place every other year. Teams and fans go all-out for one of the only team events in professional golf. The atmosphere resembles that of a football game (the real and American hybrid) except there are a dozen of them going on all over the course at the same time.

Well, the women have their own version of the Ryder Cup, too, called the Solheim Cup. This year’s event took place at Golf Club St. Leon-Rot in Germany over the weekend. Entering the final day of play, the U.S. found itself trailing. Big.

Afew matches from Saturday night had been suspended due to darkness and needed to be finished up before singles action could begin.

That’s when American rookie Allison Lee picked up her ball on the 17th hole.

In match-play format games, which both the Ryder and Solheim Cups use, teams can concede short putts to the other pairing or player as a show of sportsmanship.

This is what Lee thought the European team had done. She had just missed a birdie putt, and it rolled about two feet past the cup. Lee then scooped up the ball with her putter.

She had a good reason to believe the hole was conceded, as one of the European players, Charley Hull, had already begun walking toward the 18th tee. However, the other European, Suzann Pettersen, said they had in fact not conceded the putt. Therefore Lee had incurred a penalty stroke and the Europeans had won the hole to go 1-up in the match. The pairings then halved the 18th, and the Americans found themselves staring into the side of an even higher mountain.

After the match, a fierce debate broke out on the 18th green between the two sides, and both Lee and Hull came away with tears streaming down their faces.

American captain Julie Inkster seized the moment and rallied her team, which came out on fire to begin the singles portion and never looked back, capturing the Solheim Cup for the first time in the last three contests.

It was a great sporting moment, made all the sweeter listening to the silence from the stunned European masses as the Americans celebrated victory after victory on Sunday. None of that annoying ‘Olé, Olé, Olé’ chant the Europeans shout non-stop.

And it was precisely the kind of event golf needs more of.

Outside of a few specific venues and tournaments (the four Majors — especially at Augusta — St. Andrews, etc.), watching golf is extremely dry and boring. And this is coming from someone who played golf throughout high school and has a golf course superintendent for a father.

Golf could use more team events where players work to create the atmosphere of one of the larger sports. Look no further than the stadium-esque 16th hole at the TPC of Scottsdale, home of the Phoenix Open, dubbed the loudest hole in golf as players walked through a tunnel underneath the stands to approach the tee and are completely surrounded by, frankly, people who know nothing about golf and a lot about having a good time.

It would anger golf’s purist core, but as the Ryder and Solheim Cups have shown us, golf has the potential to be in the same realm as any of the top sporting events in the country.