Victory boiled down to the Max factor

Published : Oct 04, 2003 00:00 IST

IT'S HARD to say who should take the most credit for Europe's Solheim Cup victory, but you could certainly make out a strong case for Sky TV. Thanks to Sky's insistence on cramming it all in before switching to a men's European Tour event, the squirrels around the tree-lined Barseback Golf Club had barely made their first exploratory sniffs of the morning when the singles' matches began teeing off.

And with the Americans clear leaders in the lipstick department, half their team would have had to get up in the middle of the night to apply all their make-up. Ironic really. Just when we were wondering what might prove to be the X factor, it all boiled down to the Max factor.

The final-day line-up is always tricky for a captain, but even here, Europe had less to worry about. With Patricia Meunier Lebouc four months pregnant and suffering from morning sickness, Catrin Nilsmark had no option but to put her out last on humanitarian grounds, and it was just a question of who Nilsmark picked at the top of the order.

Sometimes, as with Seve Ballesteros in the 1995 Ryder Cup at Oak Hill, the top position is a sacrificial one, in the hope that the opposing captain unwittingly wastes a point by putting one of his best players against someone who can only locate his ball with the help of a courtesy shuttle bus and a machete. However, with Janice Moodie, the object was to get some early blue on the board, and the Scot got the team rolling with a 3 & 2 victory over Kelli Kuehne.

Kuehne's alarm clock was probably set for around 2 a.m, given the amount of make-up she was wearing, including Stars and Stripes nail varnish, and just in case anyone was still wondering which team she was playing for, she also taped up her putter grip in shades of red, white and blue.

Americans are well used to excitable crowds, but there have been 30,000 a day here, and even Kuehne would have been mildly taken aback by the vociferous nature of the Swedish support. As each match got underway, the grandstand around the first tee screechingly reverberated to rewritten versions of Abba songs. "Here we go again! Europe We Love You!"

Kuehne, though, had more than enough support of her own, including Mom ("you can pick her out easily," she said in one interview, "she's the one with the red, white and blue hair") and a woman in a red jacket who hardly ever stopped shrieking: "Go Kelli! Go Get Em Girl!" and, just to prove that she knew the rules: "One Shot At A Time, Kell!"

The star member of Kelli's entourage, however, was Mr. Kuehne, a man so huge that, with Kelli barely reaching five feet, their courting days would have to have involved a step ladder. He was, like so many Americans in the gallery, anonymously dressed, in a Stars and Stripes pirate bandana, dark glasses, a pair of what appeared to be US Military combat shorts, and a tee shirt with the inscription: "Orange County Choppers".

However, he wasn't half as intimidating on the day as Moodie's putter, which appeared to be fitted with some kind of homing device. She holed a beauty for a birdie at the first, but it was the third hole which alerted Kelli to the probability that it was going to be one of those days. Comfortably on in two with her opponent in a bunker, Kuehne watched Moodie splash out to 18 feet. She then left her putt four feet short, Moodie holed, and she missed. Two down.

Americans like things to be spelled out for them — hence the warning on their peanut packets `remove shells before eating' — and Moodie certainly did that for them.

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