Solheim Cup 2015 - A Concession Kerfuffle & A Thrilling US Comeback

Solheim Cup 2015                                                                 photo: @golfphilosophy via Instagram

Years from now, the extraordinary US victory... in the final leg of competition... is what fans will remember when they think of Solheim Cup 2015.  For the first time since 2009, the elegant, etched glass trophy was lifted by ladies in red, white & blue.  

Celebratory selfies have been posted on all the social networks. Taken on the golf course, in post-tournament pressers and at after-parties festooned with tricolor confetti, they feature high fives, hugs and jubilant smiles.

What probably won't be much remembered is the "controversial incident" that's being discussed in the media (both traditional and social) today with collective fervor.  I'm calling it the "Concession Kerfuffle" because that's exactly what it was.  

It happened during a four ball match.  All square on the 17th hole... on the final day of Solheim Cup play.  

US team rookie, Allison Lee, playing with Brittany Lincicome, missed an 8 foot birdie putt that would have won the hole, leaving 18 inches for a par to maintain the deadlock.  

As to be expected in a team event of this caliber, competitive juices were flowing and emotions were running high, and at that moment a perceived concession from one of her opponents, Suzann Pettersen or Charley Hull,  compelled Lee to pick up her ball. However, as it turned out, neither Pettersen nor Hull had conceded the putt and they quickly made that clear to the walking referee who awarded the point to Europe... who ultimately won the match.  

This left the US team with what seemed an insurmountable deficit going into the afternoon's singles matches.  It also left the golf course buzzing with tense acrimony and the golf scribes (again, both traditional and social) scribbling away on matters of sportsmanship and gamesmanship... and where to draw the line.  Suzann Pettersen was painted by many as a heartless, hyper-competitive villain for refusing to concede the putt. 

The Captains on both sides defended their teams with statements of consternation and indignation, while players reacted with raw emotion: tears were shed, comforting hugs were exchanged... and a couple of F-bombs were dropped.  Then the US went on to win, capturing 81/2 of the 12 remaining points and seizing the most impressive come-from-behind victory in Solheim Cup history. So there you are.  The kerfuffle and the comeback... and a night of festive celebrations, and a prestigious crystal cup getting ready to board a plane for the USA.

But that's not quite the end of this story.  Because, the chatter continued.  After the players and spectators had left the course, after the sun had set and the celebrations had died down. Long after the players had left the course... after the 'heat of the moment' had difinitively cooled, the online opinionating was ongoing... and most of it was directed squarely at the statuesque Norwegian who wouldn't give in.

Ultimately, early this morning Suzann Pettersen apologized, with an impassioned Instagram plea for forgiveness (an #Instaplea?). It was aimed at her fellow players and presumably also at golf fans.  Most applauded her action... though there was ample cynicism and continuing consternations on hand as well. With the apology... and the short new cycle... the beleaguered golfer seems to have put this incident behind her.

What I find a bit disconcerting though, is that Pettersen's competitive zeal (which some labeled gamesmanship and many called unsportsmanlike) was actually very much in keeping with the spirit of international matchplay events.  We seem to almost welcome it at the Ryder Cup, don't we?  It's part of what makes these competitions exciting and ... dare I say... fun.  Pettersen's refusal to concede... and the visceral, on-the-spot reactions from captains, coaches and fellow players... demonstrated a certain passion, and a burning desire to win that seems to be more easily accepted when the players are men.  

Male players are rarely pressured to apologize for not conceding, and though I was in head to toe red, white and blue cheering for team USA, I don't honestly feel Pettersen should have had to ask anyone for forgiveness. I'd like to feel my sentiments would have been the same had the US not staged their miraculous win.

In the end, it was an ultra-exciting event, but the dust is already settling. Before long eyes will turn towards Des Moines, Iowa, and the 2017 Solheim Cup, where this year's kerfuffle will be largely forgotten and comebacks of all kinds will seem infinitely possible.