Leona shines but US have last word as Europe falter at final hurdle
IF the Solheim Cup goes to as tight a finish on Sunday as the Junior Solheim did yesterday, then the Irish public and TV viewers around the globe are in for a treat.
And if the senior Solheim teams of USA and Europe care as much about victory and defeat as did their junior counterparts, then prepare for tears of joy and sadness to be wept around the 18th green at Killeen Castle at the weekend.
The young elite, all under 18, from the two continents defied horrendous wind and rain at Knightsbrook Hotel Spa and Golf Resort to produce a thrilling finish, with the 12-12 result ensuring that the USA retained the junior trophy.
It was the first time since the biennial series began in 2002 that a home side failed to win, and it was tough for the players to take.
Leona Maguire and her sister Lisa had contrasting fortunes in the singles, with Leona winning her match against Mariah Stackhouse by 5&4 and Lisa losing 3&2 to Alison Lee.
Leading 7-5 after day one, the Europeans needed 5Â½ points to reclaim the trophy, but the Americans fought like tigresses to deny the home side a victory.
The essence of the drama was captured on the par-three, 153-yard 18th where water comes into play. For added interest, the pin was located on the edge of a sharp slope that falls towards the water hazard.
Five of the singles matches went to the 18th but Europe halved two and lost three on that last hole.
Leona Maguire's disappointment was palpable as was that of the other Europeans, including her sister Lisa.
"It was disappointing the way it finished at the end with those matches that went down 18. We should have got a half point out of some of them," said Leona.
"It's a tough enough hole, but we just didn't play it very well.
"That was the pin for the Irish girls stroke-play championship, and two of the girls who went down there had already played that pin before, but that's the way it goes, that's golf I suppose," she said.
Europe captain Liselotte Neumann said: "Everybody's pretty disappointed. It couldn't have been any closer."
USA captain Meg Mallon revealed the secret of her success.
"I basically put my energy kids out first and I put my calm putters out last.
"I don't know if that worked out or not, but it certainly made it fun," Mallon said.
Details in Factfile