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Laura Davies : Cup Queen

Imagine Golf Club's Dermot Gilleece speaks to Laura Davies about the Solheim Cup in which she is about to make her 11th sucessive appearance

Posted Aug 17, 2009 by Dermot Gilleece

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It's a truly remarkable achievement.  When the Solheim Cup takes place at Rich Harvest Farms near Chicago later this week, Laura Davies will be making her 11th successive appearance for the European team.  In other words, she will have played in them all, since the event was instituted at Lake Nona, Florida, in 1990.  

Europe have won only three of those battles and, not surprisingly, the most memorable one from Davies' standpoint was the breakthrough victory at Dalmahoy in 1992.  Among other things, it proved the event wasn't a serious mis-match, as had been feared.  Which was hugely important to its future well-being.

Team events were always very special to the charismatic Englishwoman from her amateur days, simply because she never really won anything back then.  There were no British Amateur titles but she got in all the teams, playing for England on several occasions and gaining Curtis Cup honours in 1984.

All of which made it similarly special to experience these feelings again as a professional.  As she told me: "That's why the 1992 Solheim Cup remains the highpoint, when I consider memorable golfing moments.  The Solheim is terribly important to us in Europe because it's the only team thing we have. And after going to Dalmahoy as massive underdogs, we just got together as a team and steamrolled to victory on the Sunday, winning by an incredible five-point margin."

She went on: "Obviously it was important that we won the foursomes by 2 1/2 to 1 1/2 on the opening day and we then kept our lead by halving the fourballs.  But the Americans were expected to fight back in the singles where they were thought to have greater strength in depth.
I'll never forget that October day. On a personal level it was good that, at number one, I beat Brandie Burton by 4 and 2 to set the right mood.  But I will always think of it as a wonderful team effort.

"Looking back, I suspect if we'd lost that particular tie, it wouldn't necessarily have killed the matches, but it would have greatly affected the public's interest.  After all, we had been hammered 11 1/2 to 4 1/2 when it was launched at Lake Nona two years previously.  And there was no reason to believe that the Americans would do anything other than maintain that dominance, as they did for so long during the early decades of the Ryder Cup."

A tie for 46th place in the recent British Women's Open at Royal Lytham was sufficient to give 45-year-old Davies an automatic place in this week's side.  It is hard to believe, however, that she wouldn't have been given a wild-card by the team captain, Alison Nicholas, who was her long-time foursomes partner at this level.
 
"Whatever I do for the remainder of my career, Dalmahoy will always be in a class apart," continued the player who in 1994, became the first golfer, man or woman, to win on five different tours in the same calendar year.
"Going there, I remember thinking it would be nice if we gave them a good match, but deep down there was the gnawing fear that we'd get a thrashing.

"Of course the spectator excitement was at fever-pitch. They knew they were watching something pretty unusual and we were determined they wouldn't be disappointed at the end of the day. And the tension built and built until (Catrin) Nilsmark got the winning putt.  It was especially brilliant for me because of my winning partnership with Ali (Alison Nicholas) in the foursomes and fourballs.  I had known her for years and years, from the time we were about 15 or 16.  She's a real Yorkshire terrier and never hesitates to tell me what she thinks.

"Mind you, she didn't like it when I gave her a bit of stick but I had to be very careful, being so much bigger than her. I didn't want to be considered a bully.  So she got away with murder, which really didn't bother me so long as the team won.  Naturally I've got to be a lot more careful, now that she's captain of the side."

With the Americans going for three successive victories after their successes at Crooked Stick in 2005 and Halmstad in Sweden in 2007, events in Illinois will be watched with particular interest in Ireland.  After staging the Ryder Cup at The K Club in 2006, the country is getting ready to play host to the Solheim in 2011, on the new, Jack Nicklaus-designed stretch at Killeen Castle.

And the Irish organisers would like nothing better than to see Davies, who has always been a very popular visitor, as captain of the European team on that occasion. 

- Dermot Gilleece

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