First Asia, now Europe: What now for U.S. women's golf?
By John Strege
The Asians already had foreclosed on America's hold on women's golf, leaving the latter only the Solheim Cup in which to take shelter. What now?
There used to be the drawing board. U.S. women's golf went back to it with Lexi Thompson and Jessica Korda, the best young talent on the American landscape, but then along comes Charley Hull, younger than both of them, only 17, with talent and charm in equal measures and a future as promising as their own.
Hull won the Europeans' first point on Sunday, a 5-and-4 rout of the once indomitable Paula Creamer (an 11-3-5 Solheim Cup record entering the 2013 competition), setting the tone for a day that would end with a European triumph.
A Solheim Cup is not entirely indicative of the strength of any specific group of players, but the signs aren't good for the U.S. For the first time, Europe has won consecutive Solheim Cups, and its victory at the Colorado Golf Club was its first in America. Caroline Hedwall, only 24 herself, a star heretofore still in the assembly stage, went 5-0 in these matches, securing the cup for Europe with an 18th-hole birdie to beat Michelle Wie.
Europe's next generation shows promise, too. Last year, Great Britain & Ireland prevailed over the U.S. in the Curtis Cup, ending an American winning streak at seven. Hull, incidentally, played on that team, too, winning her singles match, 5 and 3, over Lindy Duncan.
Annika Sorenstam, an assistant captain for Europe, cited one more factor. "Now we have seven players from different countries represented on the European team," she said. "That shows the game is growing globally. Young girls around the world want to play this game and I think we should be happy about that."
Only a few years ago, some wondered whether it was time to scotch European participation, given the Euros' anemic performance, and replace it with an Asian team. It was never going to happen, but it's still intriguing to ponder the strength of an Asian team. It could fill half a 12-woman team from the top 10 in the Rolex Rankings and an entire team from the top 25.
The U.S.? It is not bereft of influence. Stacy Lewis, second in the Rolex Rankings, won the Women's British Open two weeks ago,the first major championship won by an American since she won the Kraft Nabisco Championship in 2011. But the landscape clearly has shifted. Maybe the Americans can take comfort in the words of a precocious 17-year-old.
"I didn't really feel that nervous, to be honest," Charley Hull said, "because this is how I always look at golf. I'm not going to die if I hit a bad shot. So I just hit it, find it and hit it again."
Wisdom and talent. The game is in good hands.