Tour should cash in on success

THE million-dollar question is whether the women's European Tour can seize the moment following Europe's spectacular Solheim Cup success in Barseback, Sweden.

Annika Sorenstam and Carin Koch celebrate their victory over W. Ward and H. Bowie. — Pic. DAVID CANNON/GETTY IMAGES-

Not much happened when the women won at Dalmahoy in 1992, though it hardly helped that key members of the Tour's personnel went on holiday immediately after the match. Again, there were no lucrative repercussions following the 2000 victory.

The latest triumph, coupled with the impact made by Annika Sorenstam over the season, should furnish Tour hierarchy with their best chance to lure sponsors into the women's game. The one million dollar Acer Women's World Cup, due to start in February 2005 in Pezula, South Africa, was introduced to the calendar, recently.

Rolex and Ping are thinking of stepping up their involvement and Volvo are keen to bump up their input. There is word of a Scandinavian swing for next year, with tournaments in Denmark, Sweden and Finland. There have been rumours of a new tournament in England but for the moment there is no event in England or Scotland apart from the Weetabix British Open, which is not run by the Tour.

It is not just at women's professional level that the home countries need to get their act together. Though the men are doing well enough in grooming young lads for Walker and Ryder Cups of the future, no one is giving girls the same chance that they get in Sweden.

Pia Nilsson, a former Solheim Cup captain and a successful coach by world standards, explained over the weekend that they did not go in for boys' and girls' golf in Sweden, just children's. At Barseback's golfing kindergarten, children could play all manner of innovative golfing games. Qualified coaches were on hand to give advice and to keep score, while they took note of every young visitor's name and address.

Where, at any tournament at home, the few under-10s there look bored silly at the end of a day, the flock of children at Barseback wanted more.

Even the Americans are consulting the Swedes about the success they are having on the girls' front. America's First Tee programme recently commissioned a book from Nilsson on how parents and guardians should react to their golfing charges.

In which connection, you may think that Laura Davies, if she is to become the kind of charismatic Solheim Cup captain she could be, will need to do something about her body language. It may do her own personal cause no harm that she lets her head and shoulders droop the moment things are going less than well but it certainly does not do anything to inspire her younger team-mates.

Catrin Nilsmark, brought up in the Swedish regime where golf and life skills are taught hand in hand, was a definite plus as captain, though she and Patty Sheehan, the United States captain, should take their share of the flak for what happened.

Some 40,000 spectators were at Barseback for the singles and many of them were waiting around the 17th and 18th greens. They had hoped that the Solheim Cup would still be live when the players reached them but even when it was over, they still expected to see the remaining games being played out. Instead, events descended into chaos as one match after another was conceded.

Suzann Pettersen, the Norwegian who was playing Cristie Kerr, was two down after 14 holes when Europe won the overall match. At that point, she unthinkingly called for the gallery around the 15th green to give a further round of applause, even though she and Kerr had still to hole out. Kerr would seem to have taken a dim view of it, at least until Pettersen gave her the point at the next hole. By then it was the paying public who were taking a dim view of things.

Davies versus Meg Mallon, a match of two celebrated veterans, was a game on which everyone had more than half an eye, especially since Mallon had defeated the English player in their last Solheim Cup confrontation.

They were level leaving the 14th but as soon as they arrived on the 15th tee, the two agreed that they wanted to stop. Their original arrangement was to call the match a half but the referee intervened to advise that this was not permitted.

Mickey Walker and Dale Reid, respectively the first of the Solheim Cup captains and the immediate past captains, spoke at the players' party of how players' contracts in the future should contain a clause saying that matches could not be conceded before the 18th.

The individual Solheim Cup records were rendered meaningless by what happened at the weekend. Also, as Reid noted, the next captain will need to be pointed in another direction when she wants to do her pre-match homework.

The players were looking at the first of their congratulatory e-mails but they could find the odd nasty one among them. Colin Montgomerie had many such messages after Severiano Ballesteros had awarded Scott Hoch a half against the Scot in the 1997 Ryder Cup.

They were all from angry folk who had put money on the scoreline as it would have been without Ballesteros's intervention.

Davies, though she would not have been among those to have dispatched a complaint, lost 5,000 pounds.