Debutante Leona Maguire played with a hard-fought 15-13 win over the United States in Ohio as Europe won the Solheim Cup.
Maguire won her individual match on Sunday, ending an unbeaten week in which she scored four and a half points from five matches – a record for a rookie – and set the tone for an exciting day of the finals.
Rookie colleague Matilda Castren punched a nerveless 2.80 meter long putt to win her match on the 18th green and the 14th the last game on 18th.
“It’s just crazy, crazy,” Castren said. “I can’t believe I made that putt.”
It sparked great joy among the Europeans, who were considered outsiders during the preparation, after having only won once in the USA, but now having won four of the last six editions of the Biennale.
Chants of “Beany we love you” echoed at the Inverness Golf Club as the small but loud crowd of visitors praised Catriona Matthew.
“It’s just amazing. My team has been so amazing all week,” Matthew, 52, told Sky Sports.
“I’m so proud of them. We knew it would be tough with just a handful of European fans. It was a great start and then it got a little bumpy.”
“It was nerve-wracking. We got three and a half [points] from the first four and then the tide turned. “
Maguire’s flashy show
Matthew was a seasoned player in Europe’s only previous win on American soil in Colorado in 2013, but this time her success was underpinned by a debutant in the form of Maguire, the first Irish woman to play in the event.
The 26-year-old presented herself in the 17th edition of the tournament in style and won three and a half points from the four games she played on the first two days.
And she got the first point in the twelve individual games on Monday with an emphatic 5 & 4 win over the previously undefeated US rookie Jennifer Kupcho, who had won two and a half points from three games.
It strengthened the already strong position of the guests overnight and brought Europe 10-7 ahead, and at times they led in eight of the games, so that the estimated 75,000 home fans had little cause for excitement.
Maguire, the only player on both sides to have played all five possible games, is only the third player in the history of the Solheim Cup to earn her team more than four points in a single competition.
“The goal was to get my point. I gave my absolute all week, I couldn’t have given anything more,” she said.
“I knew I had to play really good golf to hit them [Kupcho]. I got off to a great start; an eagle on two really excited me.
“I punched some really nice putts and kept my foot down all day. I never would have thought in my wildest dreams that the week would be like this. It was an honor to represent Europe.”
An exciting finale
Catriona Matthew (left) is the first European female captain to win the Solheim Cup twice
Madelene Sagstrom and Celine Boutier won their games to bring Matthew’s side closer to the 14-point goal required to hold the trophy as defending champions.
But the American victories of world number one Nelly Korda, Brittany Altomare and Megan Khang threatened a dramatic turnaround.
It made for some uncomfortable sights for the European fans as the hosts led five of the seven remaining games on the pitch in one phase.
But Anna Nordqvist and Nanna Koerstz Madsen did their part and earned halves in rollercoaster encounters with Lexi Thompson and Austin Ernst before the Finn Castren kept her nerve on 18th place and sealed the decisive 14th point.
Pedersen then took the lead by three in the final against Danielle Kang, securing at least another half point that would give Europe the overall victory.
The Dane, who admitted that she “wanted to join the celebrations,” promptly lost the 16th and 17th holes to send her match down for the last time, but then punched from eight feet before her teammates hit the Green stormed.
US captain Pat Hurst admitted the defeat was due to the bad start in Saturday’s opening four – which they lost 3½-½ – a format that Europeans have traditionally dominated.
“I think we got the very first fours behind the eight ball,” she said.
“At the beginning I was hoping to see a lot of red [of the singles] just to put it on the board for everyone to see, but it is what it is.
“They played hard, they played with their hearts and we asked for that.”
‘Enjoy the party’ response on social media