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Original Issue

Hard to Stomach

The Europeans made the Americans eat their words with a stunning upset in the Solheim Cup

Somewhere between tee time and tea time on Sunday afternoon in Scotland, the Solheim Cup—a biennial shoot-out between women pros from the U.S. and Europe—came of age. The Solheim Cup made its debut two years ago, with the Americans methodically pummeling the Europeans 11½-4½ in Orlando, Fla. That came as no surprise, and because the U.S. was heavily favored again last week, this new international event was not viewed as being much of a competition. But then the upstart Europeans won seven of Sunday's 10 singles matches to snatch the Cup from the Yanks—and embarrass America's best touring pros in the process.

LPGA Hall of Famer Pat Bradley? Pounded. Reigning U.S. Women's Open champion Patty Sheehan? Rocked. The world's best player in 1992, Dottie Mochrie? Stomped. In the end Europe's surprisingly easy 11½-6½ win at Edinburgh's Dalmahoy Hotel Golf & Country Club was an even greater upset than the European men's triumph over the U.S. in the 1985 Ryder Cup, a feat that ended 28 years of European futility.

The confident Americans had arrived for their expected cakewalk behind an aggressive opening shot, fired by Beth Daniel. She was quoted in October's Golf Digest as saying, "You could put any one of [the U.S. players] on the European side and make it better. But the only Europeans who could help us are Laura Davies and Liselotte Neumann." The response from Europe's captain, Mickey Walker, came quickly: "Our players are hell-bent on seeing Beth eat her words."

But so what if the Europeans' resolve was stiffened? The Americans were still prohibitive 6-to-1 favorites: Team USA had a combined 147 tournament victories among its 10 members, while Team Europe had only 74 wins, most of them on the weaker European tour. But what the oddsmakers overlooked was that six players on Europe's roster had been seasoned on the LPGA tour, including two former U.S. Women's Open winners (England's Davies and Sweden's Neumann) and the 1992 LPGA Rookie of the Year (Sweden's Helen Alfredsson).

The Americans got their cheeks slapped in the very first pairing in Friday's foursomes event. The team of Davies and the unheralded Alison Nicholas, also of England, sank six birdies in the first 10 holes en route to beating Daniel and Betsy King. The day's competition ended with Europe leading 2½-1½, and the underdogs were delirious. "We were going wild," Davies said. "I don't think anybody expected what we did today."

The results had the harsh ring of a wake-up call, but the Americans dozed right through it. On Saturday each side won one match, with the other two being halved, and suddenly Day 1 could no longer be passed off as an aberration. In fact, the Europeans weren't satisfied just to have maintained their margin. "We're actually disappointed to only be one point up," said Walker. "Imagine that."

Or try to imagine this: Sheehan, Bradley and Mochrie falling to Great Britain's Trish Johnson, Pam Wright and Dale Reid, respectively. Try to envision stalwarts King, Brandie Burton and Danielle Ammaccapane all being brushed off like lint and then Meg Mallon, the 1991 U.S. Women's Open champion, losing to unknown Catrin Nilsmark of Sweden in the match that clinched victory for Europe. None of the Americans could fathom it. When the competition was over, Mochrie sobbed behind the 16th green.

Said Alfredsson, "It's a great scalp to put on the wall for Europe. I guess this is our answer to Beth Daniel. Europe's best whipped America's best."



Nilsmark (purple sweater) clinched the Cup and was quickly swallowed in the celebration.



Daniel, who boasted of U.S. prowess, was, like her teammates, left bowed and beaten.