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U.S. reclaims Solheim Cup

Monday, September 12, 2005

Europe and Stupples unable to stave off the Americans in singles match play.

CARMEL, Ind. -- Karen Stupples said she didn't watch the scoreboard Sunday during her singles match at the Solheim Cup.

But she could sense -- even before the crowds began to thicken and before all of her nonplaying European teammates began following along the back nine at Crooked Stick Golf Club -- the significance of her spot in the next-to-last pairing opposite Meg Mallon of the United States.

"I've never played a round where every shot mattered so much," Stupples said. "Even drinking water is hard because your stomach is in knots all the way around. I've never faced anything like it."

Stupples, a Solheim Cup rookie, held up well under the pressure with the golf world watching, staving off Mallon over the 14th and 15th holes. But she, like the rest of the European team, had dug herself too much of a hole early in the day.

Stupples lost 3-and-1 to Mallon, whose par putt on 16 halved the whole with Stupples, clinched at least a half of the singles match and thus allowed the United States to claim the Solheim Cup.

The Americans ended up with 15 1/2 points to Europe's 12 1/2. The teams entered the day tied at 8-8 with 12 singles matches on the slate and Europe needing only a split to retain the Cup it had won in Sweden in 2003.

"I feel a bit responsible for the team here," said Stupples, the touring professional for Dalhousie Golf Club in Cape Girardeau. "It all came down to me. I kept fighting to the bitter end.

"I would have hoped I had risen to the occasion on the front nine. The back nine, I tried to hang in there the best I could."

Stupples, who was part of a losing best ball pairing Thursday in her only other Cup action, opened Sunday's match in a somewhat similar fashion with a bogey on the second hole and then falling 2-down after Mallon's birdie on the third.

But unlike Thursday, when she was listed at 3-over 39 on the front nine - including a bogey on the third when she picked up her ball after an errant tee shot -- and ended the day 4 over through 17, she battled back Sunday, finishing 1-under on the scorecard.

But Mallon, who won the U.S. Women's Open last year in the same season Stupples won the British Women's Open, didn't falter.

"Meg didn't give me any opportunities at all," Stupples said. "She was so solid -- fairways, greens, fairways, greens. And she was right on the stick. She didn't make any mistakes."

Stupples picked up a hole with a birdie on the par-5 fifth after landing her second shot near the green. But she gave it back on the par-3 sixth by hitting a tee shot into the water.

She chipped in from off the green on the seventh to claim that hole and then outdrove Mallon by 30 yards on the eighth, but missed a putt and fell 2-down again.

"I kept making up a hole and throwing it away again," Stupples said.

Her match was mirroring the overall picture of the day. The U.S. team started strong and ended up bringing home the first five points on the day, needing just one win and a tie in the final seven matches to take the Cup.

"It's difficult when it gets red on the board so early," European captain Catrin Nilsmark said, referring to the scoreboard colors, "especially when it's not your home crowd."

Europe then began turning the tide.

And the pressure mounted on the Stupples-Mallon matchup. At the turn, Stupples was the closest of the losing Europeans to have a chance at getting the crucial sixth win that would retain the Cup.

She fell to 3-down when she conceded a birdie putt to Mallon on the 13th.

Stupples saved par on the 14th with a pressure putt that kept the United States from clinching the title there. She made a brilliant shot from the sand for a birdie on the par-5 15th to cut into the lead.

She even had the advantage of being closer to the pin at 16, but Mallon rolled in the par putt to decide the weekend.

"It was definitely a big learning experience for me this week," Stupples said.

After having the opportunity to raise her country's flag during the event's opening ceremony on Thursday with her mother and father in attendance, Stupples ended the weekend with an 0-2 mark but a few good memories -- "The chip-in on 7; that was pretty cool" -- and a hunger to win the Cup back in front of a home crowd in 2007.

"Absolutely," she said. "Why not?"


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