Swedes lead way to sweet success

 

Two hours into the final singles series in the Solheim Cup yesterday, the situation for Europe was desperate. They needed only four points from the 12 matches to win the trophy for only the second time, but the scoreboard showed that the Americans were leading in 11 matches, the Europeans in just one.

Disgrace hung heavily in the air. After Europe had won the first-day foursomes 4-0 and established a 9 1/2-4 1/2 lead over the first two days, the odds that the Americans would win for the fifth time in six matches looked long.

But what happened over the next six or so hours is the stuff of legend. Europe not only gathered themselves to win by 14 1/2-11 1/2, they actually registered the winning point with a match to spare.

Janice Moodie, four down after six to Nancy Scranton, was all square on the 17th tee when, on the green of that hole, Carin Koch, three down after 10 to Michele Redman, holed an eight-foot birdie putt that gave her team victory.

Moodie insisted on continuing and birdied the hole herself to go to one up. But by that time not only was it pitch black but the 18th was consumed by celebrants, dancing and singing and saluting a most unusual victory.

Koch, who with her blond pigtails and pert good looks resembles an extremely attractive Swiss milkmaid, had won both her matches before yesterday, and although three down clearly sensed tension in her opponent when the American took six at the short 11th.

Pars were good enough to win the next two holes and level the match, and then Koch produced a wonderful, wedged third at the long 16th, the ball plummeting to a halt 18 inches from the hole on the sodden greens. It gave her the lead she needed.

The Swedes were hugely influential yesterday. Of the top five matches only Helen Alfredsson not only won but kept any European hopes alive, beating Beth Daniel four and three. Liselotte Neumann got a half and Catrin Nilsmark a win, meaning that, of the four points needed, Sweden contributed 3 1/2.

They contributed in other ways too. When the tidal wave of red, indicating American successes, was swamping the leaderboard, Nilsmark called an informal meeting of the last six players to go out. Nicholas was one of them and she revealed: "She said to us `Come on, come on, let's just concentrate on our games. Ignore the board'."

It was good advice and it was taken to great effect.