Despite controversersial drama leading into the final round of the Solheim Cup in Germany on Sunday, September 20th, Team USA rallied together to make a final round comeback and take the trophy out of Europe's hands.
The biennial tournament between Europe and USA is one of the most valued team events in ladies professional golf. Team Europe came into this year's 2015 Solheim Cup as the two time defending champion. After being dominated by team Europe on American soil in 2013, Team USA was eager to regain the trophy in Europe. However, in a game built on etiquette and sportsmanship, the competitive spirit crossed a sensitive line of fairness on the final day that saw some of it's competitors in tears.
The final Fourball match between Suzann Pettersen and Charley Hull against Brittany Lincicome and Alison Lee had been carried over from Saturday due to inclement weather. The match was an important one to team USA as they trailed behind Europe. Coming into the 17th all square with Pettersen and Hull, team USA's Alison Lee missed her birdie putt to win the 17th, with the ball finishing just two feet past the hole. It appeared to Lee that Hull and Pettersen had conceded the remaining putt as they were already walking off to the 18th tee box. Lee in response scooped up the ball and walked off the green. Petterson then turned to Hull and announced that they had not actually conceded the two foot putt, which then resulted in team Europe winning the hole. This move was enough to win the match and a point for team Europe with a par on 18.
Hull and Lee both fell into tears as heated discussions broke out over the controversial claim by Pettersen. A putt so short is commonly conceded between peers in matchplay, and it had appeared as though Hull had conceded it to Lee. Pettersen's insistence that rules are rules and that the putt had not been clearly conceded was observed by the rules official and the point given to team Europe. Howevver, the mass majority of those present, including members of team Europe, saw the incident as an unsportsmanlike and disrespectful move on behalf of Pettersen.
US captain Juli Inkster used the hurt and anger caused by the incident as a source of motivation to further fire up her team, stating: "If that's the way they want to play, let's go." Stacy Lewis also followed suit by leading many of her teammates in a chant of "Class! Style! USA!"
Team USA went into the final round of singles matches with a scoring disadvantage of 6-10, Europe leading. With renewed focus and motivation, team USA won 9 of the 12 singles matches to tip the scales back into US favor, winning the Solheim Cup trophy by a score of 14.5-13.5.
The comeback was the biggest in the history of the Solheim Cup for team USA, having never before reclaimed the title from more than a two point deficit. The controversial drama leading into the final matches appeared to be exactly what team USA needed to reenforce the words of captain Julie Inkster from throughout the week: "You've got to play with heart. You've got to play with fire in your belly. Never give up."
When asked immediately following the controversy over Pettersen's call if it were possible to change the resulting score, Julie Inkster replied, "It's a done deal and you know what, we don't want it now. I have never seen anything like it in my career. It's just not right. You just don't do that to your peers. It's disrespectful. I saw Charley walking off and Suzann kind of turned her back and then Suzann said she did not give it to [Lee]. If that's the way they need to play to win, then we will just try to do our best out there today."
Lee saw a bit of consolation following the controversial point lost after winning her singles match 3&1 against Gwladys Nocera. Suzann Pettersen also apologized early Monday morning for the incident, after Europe's loss, even taking her apology to instagram: "I am sorry for not thinking about the bigger picture in the heat of the battle and competition. I was trying my hardest for the team and put the single match and the point that could be earned ahead of sportsmanship and the game of golf itself! I feel likee I let my team down and I am sorry."
Team USA celebrated their win with class and style, making less of the controversy and more out of the fire under the belly that returned the 2015 Solheim Cup trophy to team USA. After lifting the trophy, full of pride for her team and ready to put the controversy to rest, Julie Inkster remarked, "I'm over it. We got the Cup."