WEST DES MOINES, Iowa – Ultimately, the hill was too steep to climb, the hole dug the first four sessions too deep to escape. Europe got out to a fast start in Sunday singles play, but slowly red spread across the leaderboard. The five-point deficit was simply too big to erase and the United States won the Solheim Cup for the tenth time in 15 tries 16½ to 11½ at Des Moines Golf and Country Club.
Despite the final score, this Solheim Cup had more magical moments than a Penn and Teller show. On Friday, in the first shot she ever hit in the Solheim Cup, Danielle Kang urged the crowd to clap and cheer while she was hitting, and she did it again in Sunday singles play.
On Saturday, Brittany Lang and Brittany Lincicome shot 61 in their four-ball match against Mel Reid and Carlota Ciganda and still had to play all 18 holes to get the win.
And in an epic tussle on Sunday featuring 11 birdies and two eagles, Lexi Thompson and Anna Nordqvist halved the opening singles match, a truly fitting outcome in a match neither deserved to lose.
Sprinkled into all that was 18-year-old Angel Yin putting on a power display that had the galleries giggling in disbelief. Kang made putts from everywhere and even the rival captains – Juli Inkster and Annika Sorenstam – rocked out together to “Dancing Queen” on the first tee the final day.
Throw in the large, appreciative galleries and the incredible way the community embraced the event, making everyone feel welcome, and it was all reminiscent of the movie “Field of Dreams” when Kevin Costner is asked if this is heaven and he replied, “No, it’s Iowa.”
In the end, the United States simply had a deeper, more talented team and a bunch of them brought their A-game to Iowa. This really wasn’t a case of Europe playing poorly as much as it was the Americans being lights out.
And if it wasn't for the fact the Yanks dominated four-ball play 7-1, things would have been a lot closer. On Sunday, the singles matches ended 5-5-2.
Contributions for the Americans came from everywhere. Cristie Kerr had 3½ points and became the all-time scoring leader for the U.S. side. Kang, Thompson, Lizette Salas and Paula Creamer, who got on the team only because Jessica Korda had to withdraw with injury, scored three points each. All 12 of the U.S. players contributed to this victory.
Europe suffered a setback early in the week when stalwart Suzann Pettersen had to drop out because of injury and then Charley Hull had to sit out all of Saturday because of a sore wrist. But the Euros got a heroic effort from Nordqvist, who bounced back from mononucleosis to win 3½.
Catriona Matthew was supposed to be an assistant captain but was pressed into service when Pettersen pulled out and, at nearly 48 years old, earned 3 points. Karine Icher chipped in with 2½ points.
And there are a lot of reasons Europe should look to the future with high expectations. This team had a trio of 21-year-olds – Georgia Hall, Emily Kristine Pedersen and Hull, who was already playing her third Solheim Cup – plus 24-year-old Madelene Sagstrom, who look like they will be around for a while.
The fate of the Cup was decided when Yin halved her match with Icher. With Salas 2-up with two to play against Jodi Ewart Shadoff the United States was guaranteed the 14 points it needed to defend the Cup with at east a tie.
Asked about the galleries, Yin said: “They were the largest I’ve ever seen.” And asked if the size of the crowd intimidated her, she said: “It made me hit it farther than I ever have in my life.” Her wonderfully wacky attitude was another special part of the week.
In a great display of both team spirit and sportsmanship, the two teams followed the remaining matches to conclusion after the Cup was clinched. The singing, dancing and chanting that infected the week burst out one last time to celebrate the victory by the Americans and honor the effort of the Europeans.
The bar was set incredibly high by Des Moines for the Gleneagles Resort in Scotland to clear when the 16th Solheim Cup is played there in 2019. But among the many things proven this week – in addition to the firepower of the U.S. team – it’s that the Solheim Cup has grown into one of the most-exciting events in all of sports.