SJA Team of the Year: The case for European Solheim Cup team

VOTING HAS NOW CLOSED to decide the winners of three major categories at the Awards, to be held at The Kia Oval in London on Thursday 7 December; Jake Wightman, Beth Mead and the Lionesses claimed the equivalent 2022 honours; who will take the top prizes this year?

By David Diangienda

When Team Europe fell to their first ever Friday morning foursomes sweep to go 4-0 down in the 2023 Solheim Cup, few would have believed what happened next.

And yet, when Sunday afternoon’s play was over, Team Europe held the Solheim Cup aloft for the third time in a row, as a pulsating three days of golf finished all-square.

It was the first time Europe had retained the Solheim Cup three times in a row and it was the first ever Solheim Cup draw.

The fact it was Spaniard Carlota Ciganda, playing in her sixth Solheim Cup on home soil, who holed the decisive putt felt fitting, given her decisive contribution of four points from four matches.

“Does it get any better than this?” asked European captain Suzann Petterson. “This is a dream come true.

“We had a massive challenge ahead of us. We have created history yet again in the Solheim Cup. These girls are legends.”

Europe’s fightback was seismic, starting on Friday afternoon with a hole-in-one from Emily Kristine Pedersen that lit a fire under her teammates. 

Europe won two and drew two of the afternoon fourballs to stop the bleeding and take some green shoots of recovery into Saturday. 

They then won five of Saturday’s eight matches, four of which made it to at least the 17th green, and by the time Saturday was over, the Solheim Cup was level. 

Sunday’s singles twisted this way and that, before eventually finishing 14-14, giving Europe enough points to retain the precious cup.

It was a star-studded American line-up featuring world number one Lilia Vu and world number two Nelly Korda, but the pair scored just three points between them from eight matches. 

Instead it was Lexi Thompson and Megan Khang who stepped up, defying both the heat and a partisan European crowd to score a combined six and a half points, including two wins playing together. 

Both won their singles’ matches on a turbulent final day, as did Ireland’s Leona Maguire, who played a crucial role in the European fightback with three points including a vital win alongside Georgia Hall against Thompson and Vu on Friday afternoon.

Matchplay golf is all about momentum, especially in the Solheim Cup and Maguire and Hall’s win on the 18th against two of the US’s biggest hitters was a vital moment in the weekend.

No discussion of this sensational weekend of golf would be complete without a word for Scottish rookie Gemma Dryburgh, who struggled at times on Friday afternoon but finished with two incredibly hard-fought halves.

Nevertheless, it will be Ciganda’s iconic putt on the 17th to secure a win over Korda and hit the magical 14 point mark that will always be remembered.

Sports journalist David Diangienda is a member of the SJA Academy, find out more about membership here.