Solheim Cup's youngest player shines
PARKER, Colo. (AP) - Charley Hull did what any 17-year-old golf fanatic would when standing next to Paula Creamer.
She asked her to sign a golf ball.
The fact that this scene played out on the edge of the 14th green after Hull had put a 5-and-4 drubbing on one of America's most popular players seemed almost incidental to the youngest player to ever suit up at the Solheim Cup.
Hull, who put the first point of Sunday's singles on the board for the winning Europeans, spent the week treating one of the biggest events in women's golf like another walk through her home course back in Kettering, England. She closed out her Solheim debut in a match the Americans desperately needed to win to mount any sort of comeback- a matchup they thought they'd have the edge in, given Creamer's experience and Hull's lack of it.
"I didn't really feel that nervous, to be honest," Hull said. "Because this is how I always look at golf: I'm not going to die if I miss it. Just hit it, and find it, and hit it again."
Thanks, in part, to two surprising points from the player who was born in 1996, Europe won the Solheim Cup for the first time on U.S. soil.
Hull, who said she got the ball signed for a friend back in England, made her name back home as an amateur and this year joined the European tour where she had four second-place finishes in her first eight starts.
She was a captain's pick for Liselotte Neumann's team and conventional wisdom said that under the best of circumstances, she'd be too young and naive to get wrapped up in the tension and nerves that often sink younger Solheim Cup players.
After getting over the nerves in her debut Friday, Hull put on a show Saturday, making seven birdies while teaming with Jodi Ewart-Shadoff for a 2-up win over Creamer and Lexi Thompson.
On Sunday, she got a rematch with Creamer and just kept going.
The list of memorable shots went like this: 18-foot birdie putt on No. 3; 45-foot birdie putt on No. 6; approach to 8 feet on No. 7; bump and run to tap-in range on No. 12.
Leading by five and trying to put the match away, Hull's approach shot on 13 banked down the contour of the green and funneled to 4 feet. Creamer was bunkered off to the side and the match looked like it was over. But Creamer holed out from the sand. No problem. Hull stepped up and calmly sank her putt to halve the hole with her fifth birdie. One hole later, the match was over.
"She goes out there, she shows no fear, she's relaxed and she's having fun, and that's what you want," European assistant captain Annika Sorenstam said.
LEWIS LOSS: Stacy Lewis blocked her approach shot to the right of the 18th green, then let the club fall from her hands during her follow through. A scene of sheer disappointment that played out time and again for the woman who won the Women's British Open earlier this month and, at No. 2, was the highest-ranked player at the Solheim Cup.
Lewis managed to get up and down after that bad shot, salvage a par and half a point for the United States in the day's opening match against Anna Nordqvist.
But half a point, just like her 1-2-1 record over the week, was not what America needed from its best player.
"We just couldn't get any momentum going early and it's disappointing," Lewis said, summing up the week.
Indeed, the only time the Americans had any momentum came on the now-infamous 15th hole Friday, when Lewis and Lexi Thompson got held up during the 25-minute debate over where their opponent, Carlota Ciganda, should drop after hitting into a hazard.
Lewis and Thompson went on to lose that match and the Americans never recovered from the disappointment and confusion that reigned deep into the evening, when rules officials conceded they'd made the wrong call but couldn't do anything to correct it.
Lewis picked up her only full point Saturday morning in a pairing with Creamer. As the week wore on, Lewis, playing in her second Solheim Cup, found herself taking advice from the more experienced Creamer, who kept telling her not to try so hard.
Didn't work, but maybe it will next time.
"I learned how to manage these rounds and play at a Solheim Cup," Lewis said. "I think it's going to help me going forward."
SHORT SHOTS: American's MVP, if there was one, was Brittany Lang, who finished with a team-high three points, capping it Sunday with a 2-and-1 win over Azahara Munoz. ... Angela Stanford lost 2 and 1 to Beatriz Ricardi to extend her Solheim losing streak to seven. ... Before Caroline Hedwall went 5-0 this week, the leading points-winner in a single Solheim Cup was Carin Koch, who went 4-0-1 in 2002. Koch was an assistant captain for Europe. ... Europe's six rookies combined to go 12-5-2. America's four first-timers went 2-7-4.
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