Alison Lee was in Orlando last week, about a 25-minute drive from Suzann Pettersen’s home. Lee had reached out with an email, but instead of responding with keystrokes, Pettersen wants to wait until the Malaysian Open in mid-October for a face-to-face meeting.
“I feel like my time will come when I see Alison, and we’ll square it out in person,” Pettersen told me when we sat down for her first post-Solheim Cup interview last Monday. “I don’t think anybody has to apologize for their actions.”
Lee was in town to receive The ANNIKA Award as part of the Annika Intercollegiate Tournament. But she flew back to Los Angeles to rush a sorority and start the fall semester of her junior year at UCLA. At 20, Lee just wants to disappear for a while, be a college student again, hang out with ex-teammates in her apartment, put “Concessiongate” behind her, and move on.
Although there’s blame to go around in what went down on the 17th green at Golf Club St. Leon-Rot on Sept. 20 in the Solheim Cup, the first person might have been Lee for scooping up that 18-incher without an official acknowledgment that it was good from either member of the European pair of Pettersen and Charley Hull.
When I sat down with Pettersen, one of the most critical questions I asked was, “What would you have done differently?” I asked Suzann three times, three different ways and never got a definitive answer.
Lee is a communications studies major at UCLA, and this was a communication breakdown that created an international controversy. Pettersen told me that she’d definitely wanted to “see it.” Lee was presumptuous to assume that putt was good in that situation.
Was it gamesmanship? I have since learned that Pettersen is known for that in the U.S. team room. She smiled when asked what would have occurred if she’d acted in the same way with intense American Solheim veteran Cristie Kerr. “It would have been a discussion or a controversy right there, and then I think the rules guy would not have been involved at all,” Pettersen said. “We might have to just deal with it there and then, but unfortunately it wasn’t [Kerr].”
Pettersen admitted she was fortunate Europe didn’t retain the Solheim Cup. The hits on social media might have been far worse and would have affected Pettersen’s chances of being a Solheim captain someday even more. “I can only imagine if we had won by a half point how this would have turned out,” said Pettersen, who lost her Sunday singles 2 and 1 to Angela Stanford. “I don’t know if that’s karma that gets you back.’’
The usually tough Norwegian admitted she was crushed to the point of tears. Sorenstam, Nancy Lopez, Butch Harmon and Phil Mickelson were among those that have counseled Pettersen through her trauma. No stranger to Cup controversy, Mickelson was one of the first to reach out. “I don’t think I can thank him enough for the words and the hours on the phone and the conversations we had for good and bad; this went both ways,” Pettersen said. “He wasn’t trying to pat me on the shoulders and say this will be fine. He asked me some critical questions, and I had to answer them.”
When I sat down with Pettersen, one of the most critical questions I asked was, “What would you have done differently?” I asked Suzann three times, three different ways and never got a definitive answer. She said she wanted to apologize for the way she handled it, not for what happened. That’s fine. But we still don’t know what she wishes she’d done instead. Maybe she’s saving that for Alison Lee.