by Jeff Skinner
In a year that women’s golf has taken more than its share of setbacks it may have been rescued by The Solheim Cup. The Solheim Cup was the necessary shot in the arm for the LPGA Tour. The tour got what it needed the most from the Cup, a victory and great play from its most recognized face, Michelle Wie. When Captain Beth Daniel made the LPGA rookie a captain’s pick there was some discussion whether she deserved to be selected. Without a doubt she certainly justified the pick, she was the most successful American player on the team with a 3-0-1 record. Wie displayed the enthusiasm and joy of a kid at Christmas and at the same time played such spectacular and determined golf you would think she was a veteran instead of a rookie cupper.
When Captain Daniel selected her picks for the Sunday singles she wanted some points early and put her heavy hitters out first. Paula Creamer, Angela Stanford and Wie were chosen to set the tone for the American side. Each of them won their matches and gave the US team just what Daniel had hoped for. Michelle Wie’s match against European superstar Helen Alfredsson presented Wie with the opportunity to make a statement. Alfredsson has years of experience as a Cup player and is a former Solheim Cup Captain. She is playing the best golf of her career so Wie was facing a formidable challenge. Wie was not intimidated by Alfredsson or her reputation and played a round of golf that we have all been expecting for years.
Wie took it to Alfredsson early and went one up with a birdie on the second hole. She had played well all week but her Sunday round was her best of the match. Her driver was long, longer than Alfredsson who is one of the longest out there. After stretching her lead to three up on the seventh hole Wie looked to be in command of her game and the match, but Alfredsson wasn’t about to let Wie walk over her. She battled back to win three out of four holes and get the match to all square at the eleventh. If Wie had faltered then it could have been attributed to experience triumphing over a rookie. Wie was not playing like a rookie. It remained all square for the next four holes until the fifteenth. On the par five 15th Wie boomed it 305 yards, hit it to twenty feet and two putted for birdie. With that birdie she took the lead and went into the eighteenth with a one up lead. Wie hit her drive on the eighteenth tee with a little Gary player move; she started walking down the fairway in her follow through. Alfredsson needed to sink her eagle putt to halve the match but left it inches short. After Wie tapped in her birdie putt the most important round of golf in her life came to a successful and emotional end.
The emotion of these team events can be overwhelming. The players feel the pressure of representing their country and playing for their team. Wie embraced this format and played the finest golf of her young life. It is easy to forget that Michelle Wie is still only nineteen years old. She has been in the public eye for years and has been forced to grow up in under a microscope. Wie’s entire life and schedule has been dictated by outside forces for years. Whether it has been her parents or her sponsors, there is always someone advising or directing Wie’s every move. This week things were different. Beth Daniel, like other captains, limited the team’s exposure to outsiders. There was no non-team members allowed in the team room, locker room, inside the ropes or at team meals. That meant Michelle Wie was Michelle Wie the player and person, actually Michelle Wie the kid. She is still a teenager! The team accepted her and she was thrilled to be a teammate. It showed in her golf and it showed in her emotions. She was one of the most enthusiastic and animated players on the team. Her skills on the course were equaled by her team spirit on the sidelines. She was able to be herself and act like the teenager she is and it was great theater. We got to see a great young player raise her game on the biggest stage and watch a kid revel in the joy of winning, winning for her team and enjoying every minute of it. Good for you Michelle. Enjoy yourself; there are many more Solheim Cups to come.