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Paula Creamer waiting to make her mark

American teenager Paula Creamer has always stood out on the golf course and it will be a major surprise if she does not shine again at this week's Solheim Cup.

Creamer, who turned 19 last month, became the youngest player in Solheim history and the first U.S. rookie to gain selection when the American lineup was announced by team captain Nancy Lopez nine days ago.

The Californian, affectionately known as the 'Pink Panther' because of her favourite golfing attire, has already won twice in her rookie LPGA Tour season and exudes confidence.

Not surprisingly, she is backing herself and her colleagues to wrest back the Solheim Cup from holders Europe by the end of this week's showdown.

"All I can say is they (the Europeans) had better get ready because they're going to get beat," smiled Creamer, after learning she had made the 12-woman lineup. "I'm very confident."

With her team mates laughing and cheering behind her, she turned to them and added: "What are you guys laughing about? You don't want to win? Let's go U-S-A."

Creamer's enthusiasm is entirely predictable for a player of her age blessed with such talent. More significant, though, is her habit of fulfilling that talent with deeds on the course.

Creamer secured 2005 LPGA rookie of the year honours by tying for second place at the Wendy's Championship for Children in Dublin, Ohio on Sunday.

In May, she became the Tour's second youngest winner with victory at the Sybase Classic, firing a one-under-par 71 to finish at 15-under 273.

Fellow American Marlene Hagge won the 1952 Sarasota Open just 14 days after her 18th birthday before claiming the Bakersfield Open two months later. However, both victories were achieved in 18-hole tournaments.

In July Creamer became the youngest winner on the Ladies European Tour with an eight-shot victory in the $2.5 million Evian Masters at Evian-les-Bains in France.

With that second success, she also became the youngest player in LPGA history to lift her career earnings above $1 million. The only other rookie to have passed the million mark is Australia's Karrie Webb in 1996.

Along the way, Creamer has come close several other times, not least of which when tying for third at the LPGA Championship, the second women's major of the year.

"This year has been so good, and we have so many tournaments left that I want to do well in," she said last week.

"But Solheim is about to happen and rookie of the year is finalised. All my goals are being checked off."

Solheim Cup selection was one of Creamer's main goals for this year and she is champing at the bit for the three-day competition to start on Friday at Crooked Stick Golf Club in Carmel, Indiana.

"I'm so excited," she said. "We have a great team. Everybody gets along so well and we all want to win. I know I do.

"I would do anything if the team needs whatever to be done to win, I'm there for them. We're all playing well."

With home advantage and a 5-3 lead in the series, the U.S. start as favourites, despite Europe's convincing victory in the 2003 edition by 17-1/2 points to 10-1/2 at Barseback Golf and Country Club in Sweden.

If the U.S. team can collectively match Creamer's self-belief then anything is possible.

"To be called the next great American, that does put a lot of pressure on me," she said shortly after winning the Sybase Classic.

"But I thrive off of pressure. It makes me practise harder. It makes me try to represent my country more, everything.

"I expected myself to win that week. There's a lot of people who have been out for a while and haven't won. With my game, though, I felt I should be able to win. And it came."

 

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