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Solheim Cup Review

Bad Weather Can't Dampen On-Fire Europeans

Posted Sep 26, 2011 by Dermot Gilleece

suzann pettersen suzann pettersen

Wonderful scenes at Killeen Castle greeted Europe’s extraordinary victory in the Solheim Cup.  Pity that a large section of the attendance had already departed the scene, having been thoroughly soaked by typical September weather.

In this context, it beggars belief that when dates are being finalised for the next European staging of the event in 2015, a year after the Ryder Cup at Gleneagles, we can be sure that no consideration will be given to this, crucial issue.   It is as if officials cling to the firm belief that nobody is going to rain on their particular parade.  Sadly, the evidence would suggest otherwise.

Four years ago, the last European staging of the Solheim Cup took place just a week earlier in September, in Halmstad, Sweden.  And the weather was horrendous.  For the practice days early in the week, conditions were delightfully sunny.  By Friday, however, when the tournament had got under way, the temperature dropped significantly and a brave attendance was lashed by rain.
Into the weekend, Saturday brought high winds and spectators were greeted by similar conditions with the addition of further rain, on Sunday morning.  Fortunately, the sandy nature of the soil made it possible to complete the event on schedule.

Where the Ryder Cup is concerned, we in Ireland need no reminding of the aftermath of Hurricane Hugo which seemed likely to scupper the playing schedule at The K Club in 2006.  I remember greens superintendent, Gerry Byrne, telling me that after an inch and a half of torrential rain from 7.0am until midday on the Sunday, they were within little more than 15 minutes of closing the course. Byrne admitted: "Though our greens never flooded, the overall condition of the course wasn't far from the way Celtic Manor was on Friday morning last year.  In our case, we were simply fortunate that the rain stopped."

Indeed I retain an image of Byrne in the company of 40 greenkeeping colleagues using towels to matt saturated tees, ahead of Colin Montgomerie in the top singles.  Interestingly, he had a total of 80 staff at his disposal, compared with 120 at the Welsh venue, including Richard Stillwell, consultant agronomist to the European Tour.

During the closing ceremony at Valhalla in 2008, Nick Faldo made the now notorious reference to the 2010 staging at Celtic Manor, warning patrons to bring their wet gear.  Sadly, with equinoctial weather doing its very worst, he was bang on the money.  As things turned out, the event was saved as a spectacle only by a thrilling final day, which had to be postponed until the Monday.

A few hours after the Solheim Cup had returned To Europe for the first time since 2003, I spoke to an American friend of mine who works in Dublin and had gone to Killeen Castle to support his native country.  When the third interruption of play was called because of the threat of lightning, he decided he had had enough.  Soaked to the skin and with nowhere to shelter, he headed for the public car-park at 4.30, convinced the US were set to retain the title.  And when getting into his car, a 4x4, he observed the problems many less fortunate patrons were having in being bogged down in mud.  What else did the organisers expect at a venue set in the middle of lush, farmland?

Of course the US can also have its weather problems.  I remember heading for Augusta National on the Monday of Masters week in 2003, only to be confronted by disappointed patrons coming away from the ground.  The course was closed for the day because of adverse weather.  And I can recall the Walker Cup at Interlachen in 1993, when similar weather caused the opening foursomes to be abandoned.  But for the most part, the US seem to get by weather-wise, especially where the big events are concerned.

We in Europe, on the other hand, continue to tempt fate, with the sort of consequence we witnessed on Sunday.  And the irony is that last year’s Solheim Cup at Rich Harvest Farms near Chicago, was staged a month earlier.  Did it not cross anybody’s mind to consider a similar arrangement this year, given the number of disasters associated with September?  Obviously not.

The greatest pity, of course, is that so many genuine golf fans were denied the opportunity of seeing one of the finest matchplay performances by a professional, man or woman, on this side of the Atlantic.  I refer, of course, to the marvellous Suzann Pettersen and her stunning birdie, birdie, birdie finish, in beating Michelle Wie on the 18th.

- Dermot Gilleece

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