PARKER, Colo. – Dave Hull, in a thick English accent, easily explains his daughter Charley’s seemingly indifferent attitude toward pressure. Most importantly, Dave says, Charley is fearless and “always has been.” Perhaps as a side effect, Charley always says exactly what’s on her mind.
“I’ve always told Charley, say what you see,” Dave said.
On Saturday, Charley saw an opportunity to snag a maiden four-ball point for her European team and start a lopsided afternoon. Last to hit at the par-3 17th, Charley stuck a 9-iron to 4 feet, just inside opponent Lexi Thompson’s shot. The most nervous situation Charley has ever experienced on the golf course?
“Probably over that 4-foot putt,” she said.
The Europeans went to dormie as Hull made and Thompson missed. So was the story of the day for the first group of four-balls: the attention was on the teenagers.
Hull, 17, had four birdies in the first nine holes, but her team turned with just a 1-up lead. Thompson, 18, had four, too. Thompson’s partner, Paula Creamer, says she “didn’t really show up until the fourth or fifth hole,” but Thompson kept the Americans afloat.
“It’s some of the best golf I’ve ever been part of,” said Jodi Ewart Shadoff, Hull’s four-ball teammate, who added four birdies of her own on the day. She concedes she was slightly surprised at being sent off first with another rookie. Ewart Shadoff guesses captain Liselotte Neumann saw the potential in pairing an aggressive player such as Hull with a down-the-middle player such as herself.
Neumann said she first thought of the pairing when she picked Hull after the Ricoh Women’s British Open, and decided to use it after each got a match under her belt.
There were only brief rookie moments in the match, such as when Hull, out of the 16th hole, sat down on the high side of the green as Ewart Shadoff finished her par. At the 17th, Hull visibly wiped the sweat from her brow.
At the seventh, a lack of experience created an uncomfortable situation over the concession of a putt. Hull already was in the hole with birdie, and Thompson had a birdie putt to tie. Creamer, on the same line as Thompson, stepped over her par putt before Ewart Shadoff’s caddie called her off. He had been tipped off by European assistant captain Annika Sorenstam.
Assistant captains are not allowed to give advice, so the situation was presented to the U.S. Golf Association. It was not considered advice, so American captain Meg Mallon called it a moot point.
There were five European rookies on the course Saturday afternoon to America’s three. Neumann’s pairings raised a few eyebrows after a Saturday-morning charge by the Americans during which they drew within one point of the Europeans.
For rookie Carlota Ciganda, a pairing with former Arizona State teammate Azahara Munoz was all the difference. Ciganda struggled to contribute when paired with Suzann Pettersen on Friday afternoon, and was the victim of an incorrect ruling that created enough controversy to overshadow Europe’s Day 1 lead.
Ciganda met Munoz when she was 8 years old (Munoz was 11), and the Spaniards have teamed many times. They defeated Angela Stanford and Gerina Piller on the 18th, and held each end of a Spanish flag as they gave a post-round interview near the green.
“I love Europe, I love winning and I love beating the Americans,” Ciganda said, “And we’re going to win tomorrow.”
That veterans Pettersen and Catriona Matthew could sit on the bench as the kids extended the lead proves the Europeans’ well is deep. Caroline Hedwall will be the only player to go all five matches this week, and she enters Sunday with a 4-0 record.
Hedwall now has won two foursomes matches with Anna Nordqvist and two four-ball matches with Caroline Masson. In the Solheim Cup’s 12-year history, no player has won five points. European assistant captain Carin Koch came closest, with 4 1/2 points in 2002.
To seal the day, and secure the sweep, Karine Icher holed a 45-footer from the fringe behind No. 18 green to take a point from Cristie Kerr and Morgan Pressel, charging toward a likely half.
The Europeans appear headed toward their first victory on U.S. soil.
Solheim Saturday is when the record books start to open up in search of patterns that might suggest which team holds an advantage entering Sunday’s singles. Trailing in that situation is nothing new for the Americans, who have taken a lead into Sunday only twice in the 12-year history of the Solheim Cup. They’ve won from behind three times (2007, ’02, 1996).
Europe’s five-point advantage ties the team’s largest Day 2 lead in this event. The Europeans also led by five in 2000, and went on to win that year.
When a row of Europeans (Hedwall, Ewart Shadoff, Hull, Masson) appeared before the media late Saturday evening, the consensus was that there was no specific American target.
As Hedwall put it, “There’s so many you want to beat, you know?”
Mallon, though shocked at losing all four afternoon matches, lit up at the sight of Sunday’s pairings.
“It can be done, and that’s what you go back and say to your team,” she said. “… I think we are a stronger team, and we can do it tomorrow.”
• • •
12:40 p.m.: Anna Nordqvist (Europe) vs. Stacy Lewis (U.S.)
12:50 p.m.: Charley Hull (Europe) vs. Paula Creamer (U.S.)
1 p.m.: Azahara Munoz (Europe) vs. Brittany Lang (U.S.)
1:10 p.m.: Carlota Ciganda (Europe) vs. Morgan Pressel (U.S.)
1:20 p.m.: Caroline Hedwall (Europe) vs. Michelle Wie (U.S.)
1:30 p.m.: Catriona Matthew (Europe) vs. Gerina Piller (U.S.)
1:40 p.m.: Suzann Pettersen (Europe) vs. Lizette Salas (U.S.)
1:50 p.m.: Giulia Sergas (Europe) vs. Jessica Korda (U.S.)
2 p.m.: Caroline Masson (Europe) vs. Lexi Thompson (U.S.)
2:10 p.m.: Jodi Ewart Shadoff (Europe) vs. Brittany Lincicome (U.S.)
2:20 p.m.: Beatriz Recari (Europe) vs. Angela Stanford (U.S.)
2:30 p.m.: Karine Icher (Europe) vs. Cristie Kerr (U.S.)