I write this column after Team USA, in its many forms, loses an international golf match. I’ve made notations after Ryder and Curtis and Walker cups in the past. On Sunday, August 18th, Team USA went down to a massive defeat (10-18) against the European team in the Solheim Cup. Named for the founder of PING, the Solheim Cup is a biennial competition involving female touring professional golfers.
Many aficionados and members of the media will take a knee-jerk reaction to the events of the past three days at the Colorado Golf Club, near Denver. Team Europe found that special bond and combined it with stellar play to defeat a USA side that was decidedly weaker than in the past. How so? Well, consider that just two members of the team (Stacy Lewis and Christie Kerr) have wins on tour this year. When you don’t win, you sometimes forget how to close the deal. This point is not very strong, however, when you consider that only a trio of European women have won on either tour (Euro or USA) this year: Beatriz Recari, Suzann Pettersen and Carlota Ciganda.
It can be tough to make an argument for why things shook out the way they did. Sometimes a course fits a player’s or team’s eye, sometimes the stars and planets align and sometimes a team is simply better. I’ve coached my share of teams and had better teams lose, lesser teams win and many teams play to form. I suspect that Team USA would confess that it felt pressure once it got behind on day one. Similarly, the Euros doubtless felt a groundswell of Yes We Can after seizing a two-point lead after Friday’s matches.
Golf is a selfish game. It has no equivalent to the doubles specialists of professional tennis, mainly because there is no money in it. Golfers play as individuals in 97% of professional instances and the one week every other year (every year if you are a top USA male professional) that they compete as teammates, they are expected to subjugate the individual to the collective. Socialism and golf? Interesting, very interesting.
In a few weeks, USA amateurs will meet their counterparts from Great Britain and Ireland in the Walker Cup. The matches will be held on US soil and the US team is a very strong one. Many players know each other from their college teams, which should give the Yanks a decided advantage. What will the outcome be? One of many potential certainties.