In early 1990, the Ladies European Tour and the LPGA thought together about the possibility of organizing a tournament similar to the Ryder Cup, the men's team competition that had been running since 1926, played with high drama and passion every two years and becoming part of the story of Golf.
Azahara Muñoz, the latest Spanish player in the Team, in 2011
In early 1990, the Ladies European Tour and the LPGA thought together about the possibility of organizing a tournament similar to the Ryder Cup, the men's team competition that had been running since 1926, played with high drama and passion every two years and becoming part of the story of Golf. All the great champions of the twentieth century had participated in it: Nicklaus, Palmer, Snead, Watson, Ballesteros, Jacklin, Torrance, Lyle, Faldo ... The golf world was mesmerised when the best players from both sides of the Atlantic came together on one stage, and the idea of moving the tension, rivalry and format into a women's tournament seemed synonymous with success. They just needed a good sponsor to make the dream a reality....
1990, the first edition and first steps
Karsten Solheim, founder of Karsten Manufacturing Corporation, had spent years involved in women's golf through Ping, one of the leading manufacturers of golf equipment. It was he who gave the nod to the idea and signed a collaboration to sponsor the event for ten editions (twenty years), giving also the name by which we would recognize this competition in the future. Less than a year later, in late 1990, the first Solheim Cup was played at Lake Nona Golf & Country Club (Orlando, Florida). Players included Laura Davies, Alison Nicholas, Liselotte Neumann, Nancy Lopez and Betsy King. That week, the United States won by 11 ½ to 4 ½, but more importantly, this was the first step of a tournament that would go down in history.
1992, our first victory, the revenge
As with any new competition, the beginning for both teams was in a format they barely knew. Both teams soon started to realise what the most important factors were : the importance of the public, the union of the team and the importance of having an appropriate and good captain. The Solheim Cup moved to Dalmahoy Country Club (Scotland) in 1992, and Europe got revenge on the United States by a score of 11 ½ to 6 ½. Kathy Whitworth and Mickey Walker had been in charge of both teams in the two previous editions and the stars, which rose from 8 to 10 players per team, hardly changed. As happened in the Ryder initially, it seemed a matter of time before one of the teams will impose their dominance in the tournament and in this case, it was the USA who dominated over the following years
1994- 1998: the US’s dominance
The following three cups, played in West Virginia, Wales and Ohio, ended up in American hands. The format of the competition, as well the qualification system for both teams, kept on changing from edition to edition and in 1998, for the first time, they included the captain’s personal picks. During this period, U.S.stars Julie Inkster, Dottie Pepper and Meg Mallon were unbeatable in match play, leading their companions to victory and resulting in nearly a decade of dominance in the Solheim Cup.
2000, time for Dale to break the trend, the second EU victory
The honour of breaking this trend went to the 2000 European captain, Scotland’s Dale Reid, who had participated in the first four editions as a player. Dale introduced several changes among her team to give a breath of fresh air with fellow Scot Janice Moodie, six Swedish players, English trio (Trish Johnson, Laura Davies and Alison Nicholas), France's Patricia Meunier-Lebouc and Spaniard Raquel Carriedo. The European team stormed to victory over Pat Bradley’s team in the foursomes on the first day (4-0) and maintained their advantage until Sunday afternoon. Europe was more alive than ever. 14 ½ to 11 ½.
|Carriedo, first Spaniard in the Solheim Cup Team
"When I arrived, I felt I was the worse of the team because I was the only player on the team that did not have any victories," says Raquel Carriedo. "But the experience lived there turned out to be very positive to me and I soon realized the strength that playing the event meant as the victories started to appear immediately after it." The components of Reid’s team managed to defeat not only the United States, but became better players and began to succeed all over the globe. Among them was Annika Sorenstam, who at this point in her career had won three majors, reaching milestones in golf still not possible for other professionals.
2002, a new win for US team and new faces on the EU team
The following editions became closer than before. Reid continued at the helm of the European ship and went to Interlachen Country Club in 2002 with several new faces: Iben Tinning, Karine Icher, Maria Hjorth and promising Norwegian Suzann Pettersen. Along with Raquel Carriedo, a second Spanish golfer, Paula Marti, joined the expedition to Minnesota. The Catalan would face for the first time a pressure which, despite her two wins on the circuit in 2001, she had not experienced before, so the captain decided to play her together with Laura Davies. They played together three times "It was an amazing experience," says Marti now. "We played very well. In the first day’s foursome we beat Julie Inkster and Laura Diaz, with eagle on 18th. She hit a great driver, I hit a 3-wood and holed it to win. Imagine I was a rookie, had just arrived ... You are so impressed by everything and you feel some fear, but you get used to this quickly. The atmosphere, the crowd, the chants for home and European ... I would love to play it in Europe. " Her team gained confidence achieved in Scotland and led 9-7, but the Americans responded in the singles by winning seven of the twelve matches and drawing three. Victory for the EU team was not possible in the end and US Team won this 7th edition by 15 ½ to 12 ½.
2003, our 3rd victory and biggest point difference in its history
The next edition was played only one year later, in 2003 so as not to conflict with the Ryder Cup (Ryder 2001 was not played because of September 11th). The European team proved to have recovered despite the recent loss at Minnesota. The team was captained this time by Catrin Nilsmark. Annika Sorenstam and Suzann Pettersen were invincible as a couple and with Laura Davies, Sophie Gustafson, Catriona Matthew and Spaniard Ana Belen Sanchez, one of the rookies of the European team, they managed to win by the biggest difference its history: 17 ½ to 10 ½.
2005 to 2009, time for US team predominance: Young and passionate players mixed with experience
Those two losses in three appointments made an impression on the U.S. team. The US team found new promising stars in Paula Creamer, Christina Kim, Natalie Gulbis, Morgan Pressel and Michelle Wie, and all of them joined the Solheim Cup Team and injected unusual force by mixing their passion and freshness balanced with the experience provided by Inkster, Mallon and Daniel. There was not much that the European teams captained by Nilsmark (2005), Alfredsson (2007) and Nicholas (2009) could do to beat them, although the fighting was fierce. The Americans were on top of world rankings, winning majors and enjoyed the birth of a generation of great players. Tania Elósegui, participant in 2009, recalls: "The Solheim was hard for the defeat after all the effort, but I have a fantastic memory. Before going, I spoke on the phone with Olazabal and once we got to Chicago, the LET had prepared a CD with his words. I loved it! He wished me luck, and told me to enjoy it, he also warned me about the crowds and the public at the 1st Tee and 1sthole pressure ... "
Elosegui, in 2009, was the fourth Spanish player in the Team.
2011, the last edition and our last victory
Alison Nicholas is responsible for breaking this new era of U.S. dominance at Killeen Castle, in 2011. The Europeans found out the secret of US success and copied their recipe: build a team with a mix of fresh , young and passionate players, to bring renewed energy to the team and also keep experience on the side. So Nicholas included in the team six players who did not exceed 27 years of age: Caroline Hedwall, Melissa Reid, Sandra Gal, Anna Nordqvist, Christel Boeljon and Azahara Munoz. Five of them were rookies and would face a great responsibility to return the Solheim Cup to the European side. The tide had begun to change over the previous months, when many of these professionals were performing fantastically at the LPGA Tour tournaments, traveling and living away from home. "For me it was a new experience and I wanted to make the most of it" says Azahara. "All the players got along very well and that helped me a lot." The team of the old continent was very different from those in which it was Raquel Carriedo, who recalled the time when the Americans knew each other much better than Europeans. This time, they all knew their partners well. Both teams came to Sunday singles tied, against all odds and with heroic play from Hedwall , Muñoz and Pettersen, Europe confirmed the victory when Azahara birdied the 17th hole against Angela Stanford. "It was spectacular, especially how it ended on Sunday with all the stress we experienced during the last day. We had a lot of confidence in ourselves. We were giving each other continuous support and we thought that it was possible to win, "said the girl from Malaga . "And we could." Europe won 15 to 13.
2013, the 13th edition: Colorado Mission
The 13th edition will take place on US soil, at Colorado Golf Club, from 16th to 18th August. How many Spaniards will be in the team this time? Ciganda, Muñoz, Recari, Mozo are some candidates and they all have showed their skills and willingness.
But nothing is for certain yet with plenty of qualifying tournaments till to play.
Could this be the first time Europe beat America on US soil?