Is Europe's Best Yet To Come?
The European Team nursing hangovers after celebrating victory in the 17th Solheim Cup was the strongest yet. European golf fans might like to ponder an interesting question: is Europe’s best yet to come?
The signs look good.
All 12 of Catriona Matthew’s team were in the top 70 of the Rolex Women’s Golf Rankings. Eleven of the 12 have LPGA Tour cards, with Emily Kristine Pedersen the odd woman out, a dynamic that’s sure to change in the not too distant future.
The United States may have been the stronger side on paper, with bookmakers taking that into consideration in making them favourites, but the gap wasn’t as big in reality. So it proved over the three days. Europe’s best were better than America’s best, two points better. Only one player, Sophia Popov, did not contribute a point to Europe’s victory.
Who would have thought Matthew’s team would win on American soil with seven different players from the team that won at Gleneagles two years ago? Just think of the players who competed last time who didn’t play in this match. Suzann Pettersen, Bronte Law, Jodi Ewart Shadoff, Caroline Masson, Azahara Munoz, Caroline Hedwall and Ann Van Dam were all missing in action. All but the retired Pettersen will be vying for spots next time.
They’ll be going up against a cast of characters who excelled in this match, veterans and rookies alike. Leona Maguire, the top points earner in this contest, looks like she can provide the backbone of future European teams. Fellow newcomers Nanna Koerstz Madsen and Matilda Castren hardly looked fazed by America’s best. Castren, the first Finnish golfer to play in the match, looked as if she was playing in a friendly bounce game back home the way she calmly rolled in her putt on the 18th green to defeat American stalwart Lizette Salas and give Europe its second win on American soil.
Aside from the players already mentioned who made the 2019 team but missed out this time, think of the players waiting in the wings to make their Solheim Cup debuts. Maja Stark, Albane Valenzuela, Pauline Roussin-Bouchard and Leonie Harm are new professionals with impressive amateur records. The current World Amateur Golf Ranking top 20 (ranking in brackets) points to a plethora of young Europeans with Solheim Cup possibilities – Ingrid Lindblad (3), Beatrice Wallin (4), Emma Spitz (6), Lauren Walsh (11), Agathe Laisne (12), Caroline Lopez-Chacarra Coto (16), Paula Schulz-Hanssen (18) and Hannah Darling (19).
Perhaps the most encouraging sign from the last two Solheim Cups is the team’s overall strength. In early matches, Europe always seemed to carry at least one passenger. Not now. Matthew could probably have put all 12 names in a hat over the last two contests and simply drawn names at random to make up her pairings.
More constituents playing on the LPGA Tour has obviously helped Europe’s Solheim Cup prospects. Playing against strong Americans on a week-to-week basis means European players have nothing to fear in the biennial match. Rest assured those aforementioned amateurs will be seeking to find a home on the LPGA Tour somewhere down the line. Like Castren, Koerstz Madsen, Maguire, they, too, won’t be fazed going up against the top Americans.
Europe’s best may be yet to come, and that’s good news for the Solheim Cup.
#JustSaying: “It's just unbelievable. My team have been so fantastic all week. I’m so proud of them.” Catriona Matthew
Photograph courtesy of the Ladies European Tour