• Gimmegate

    during the completion of the Saturday afternoon fourball matches in the 2015 Solheim Cup at St Leon-Rot Golf Club on September 20, 2015 in Sankt Leon-Rot, Germany.

    The Solheim Cup, during its comparatively short history, has certainly highlighted many of the positive aspects of women’s professional golf. But over the years, it has also shown a less pleasant side which has little to do with fostering good relations between players from either side of the Atlantic, or enhancing the spirit of the game.

    It was club manufacturer Karsten Solheim, the founder of the Ping brand, who was the driving force behind this showcase of female professional talent. I’m sure Solheim meant well, and perhaps in the same way that the man who started the Ryder Cup, Samuel Ryder, held the lofty ideals of game in such high regard, he felt that the ‘fairer sex’ deserved an equivalent biennial event. I dare say that Solheim might have just considered the fact that this international golfing jamboree would result in Ping receiving some positive marketing spin-off. What he couldn’t have envisaged was the cat fighting and bitchiness that has masquaraded as patriotism and team spirit.

    For starters, there has long been an issue with the eligibility and qualification for the event. Originally only US citizens born in the USA could represent America, but then that rule was changed to include naturalised citizens (as long as they obtained citizenship before they turned 18), as well as players who became US citizens by adoption before the age of 13. Perhaps some of the more cynical Europeans saw this as a way for the Americans to recruit ‘ringers’ from Asia in the future, who certainly dominate the LPGA Tour.

    Then there is the matter of the European players, who have to be members of the Ladies European Tour (any category will do), but they only have to play in a minimum of six official rankings events. To consider a player to be a full member of a tour where they spend a fleeting six weeks is rather ridiculous (the same can be said for some of our Sunshine Tour members), but so be it. The point is that there has been no love lost between these teams, and some of the petty squabling has been rather pathetic considering that very few golf fans actually care which side wins.

    Interestingly, but not surprisingly, the players and management have also been known to have some heated spats among themselves, and famously when Dottie Pepper was announcing the 2007 event in Sweden, she made a serious blunder. Thinking the microphone was off during a commercial break, she referred to Laura Diaz and Sherri Steinhauer as “choking freaking dogs”.

    Naturally this caused more than a little ill-feeling, and the American captain Betsy King quite rightly lambasted her. Then there was the disgusting display of poor sportsmanship when Annika Sörenstam chipped in during a fourball match in the 2000 event at Loch Lomond, which would have halved her match, but her opponent Kelly Roberts (and her captain Pat Bradley) insisted that she had played out of turn, and the shot was recalled. The fact that Bradley is the aunt of the unpopular Keegan Bradley, who made an idiot of himself when he had that argument with Miguel Ángel Jiménez, is of no consequence, and I certainly wouldn’t suggest that there is some genetic flaw in the Bradley bloodline.

    This year again Sörenstam became embroiled in a row with American captain Juli Inkster, when she was apparently accused of giving advice to a player. Only the team captain may give advice under the rules, unless the captain (in this case Carin Koch) specifically designates someone to communicate the advice to the player. But two years ago during the event in Colorado, Sörenstam (she was the vice-captain) was also accused of giving advice illegally, and this incident threatened to end up in a duel with handbags at five paces.

    Unfortunately, in the 14th edition of this event in Germany, the inherent bitchiness found in the women’s game reached a new low when Suzann Pettersen claimed a hole in a foursomes match, after she said that she had not conceded a 16-inch putt. As Pettersen and her partner Charley Hull were marching off the green, their opponent Alison Lee picked up her ball. Both Hull and Lee ended up in tears – not exactly a great advert for the game.

    We have come a long way since the great Jack Nicklaus gave Tony Jacklin that very missable putt in the Ryder Cup at Royal Birkdale in 1969, a concession that resulted in a draw, but sadly we have headed in the wrong direction.

    It is perhaps time to do away with the concession of putts.

    If a putt is close enough to the hole to be conceded, the player should have no trouble tapping it in. But it is sad that we should consider changing an old tradition because of unsporting behaviour.

    Considering so much ado has been made made of giving advice, I’m sure the Solheim Cup players and organisers won’t need any from me, but I’ll offer it anyway – this fatuous event should be cancelled. It has never really captured the imagination of the golf fans, and nor is it likely to.

    Article written by