After a thrilling 15-13 tie with Team USA at the Inverness Golf Club in Ohio on Monday, Team Europe retained the Solheim Cup.
Matilda Castren, a rookie from Europe, held her nerve to win her singles match against American Lizette Salas on the 18th hole, ensuring her team’s successful defense of the biennial golf tournament, which pits the best professional women’s golfers from Europe and the United States against one another.
By winning the final match, Emily Pedersen ensured the victory, sparking scenes of jubilant celebrations, including European captain Catriona Matthew being lifted aloft to commemorate the achievement.
The 52-year-old Scot became the first European captain to win the competition twice, despite admitting that it would be her final Solheim Cup.
“It’s over to someone else now. I think — we have so many good past players, and I think everyone deserves their chance to be captain,” Matthew told the media afterwards.
“I think to be part of the Solheim, I was lucky enough to play in nine and I’ve captained two, and I’ve had a fantastic time. It’s the best week I’ve had every two years, and to have been involved with it now for over 20 years, I’m sure I’ll be there watching, but it’s someone else’s turn.”
A message from Ryder Cup captain Padraig Harrington, who will be hoping for more European success on US soil later this month when his team faces American opposition at Whistling Straits, was among the many congratulatory messages on social media to the European team.
On Twitter, Harrington said, “What an inspirational performance by Team Europe.”
The European team had a 9-7 lead over their hosts heading into Monday’s final day of play, needing just five points to secure a memorable victory.
The visitors started the day of singles matches on a high note, winning the first three points to extend their lead.
Team USA, on the other hand, stormed back, winning five of the next six matches to cut the deficit to two points with four games remaining.
But, up against tough competition in a hostile environment (the course in Toledo had 130,000 spectators), Castren held her nerve to silence the home crowd and claim Europe’s second-ever Solheim Cup victory on American soil.
She earned Ladies European Tour membership by winning the 2021 Gant Ladies Open in her native Finland just six weeks ago. She’s now a Solheim Cup champion.
“It’s hard to put it into words right now. I think I’m still shaking,” an emotional Castren said. “I just knew I was looking at the board and I knew it was going to be an important putt, and I wanted to make it. Me and (caddie) Mikey (Patterson) read it and we read it perfectly and it went in.
“I’m just so happy right now, and I’m not sure what the final scores are, but I’m just… Yeah, a lot of emotions right now.”
Over the weekend, however, it was yet another rookie who stole the show.
Leona Maguire of Ireland, the first Irishwoman to compete in the event, was unfazed throughout the women’s golf festival in Ohio.
The 26-year-old finished as the tournament’s top scorer with four-and-a-half points from five matches, including a decisive 5&4 win over previously unbeaten US rookie Jennifer Kupcho.
Maguire’s unbeaten debut at the Solheim Cup was aided by a strong start on Monday.
“Just wanted to put pressure on Jen from the get-go. She’s a phenomenal player; we’ve played many times before, and I knew I’d have to have my ‘A’ game today, and luckily, there was still some energy left in my legs and I was able to get it done.”
Afterward, Team Europe captain Matthew praised Maguire while also praising her team’s unity.
“This team, we’re always one team and we win as a team or we lose as a team. It’s tough to pick out individuals. I think they all played fantastically well, so we’re all one team.”