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Rookies central to US Solheim Cup victory

Solheim Cup success for the United States at Crooked Stick Golf Club owed much to the stirring performances put in by their three rookies and perhaps a little to Europe's selection policy.

The home team regained the Cup thanks to a potent mix of vibrant youth and wily experience, with rookies Paula Creamer, Natalie Gulbis and Christina Kim making a huge contribution, both on and off the golf course.

The U.S. trio played in 13 ties and contributed nine points to Sunday's victory margin of 15-1/2 points to 12-1/2, and that was in stark contrast to the minor role played by the European newcomers.

European captain Catrin Nilsmark chose to restrict Karen Stupples, Ludivine Kreutz and Gwladys Nocera to the minimum two ties apiece, and a 2 & 1 singles win for Nocera over Cristie Kerr in the singles was the only positive contribution.

For Europe, who now trail the US 6-3 in the biennial series and are yet to win on American soil, the question of team selection is bound to be raised before the next Solheim Cup at Halmstad in Sweden in two years' time.

In recent years, the top seven from rankings based almost exclusively on the Ladies' European Tour - which is far weaker than its LPGA counterpart - have been supplemented by captain's selections.

However, with so many of the top players competing almost exclusively on the LPGA Tour, there could be a move to adjust the balance.

Many would contend that the presence of Sweden's Liselotte Neumann and Briton Janice Moodie would have aided Europe's cause at Crooked Stick.

American Juli Inkster, a member of the Hall of Fame who has played in six Solheim Cups, is in no doubt that U.S. captain Nancy Lopez did the right thing by throwing her three rookies into the fray on the first morning.

"I think it is very tough if you play just one match and a singles," said Inkster in reference to Nilsmark's decision to sit out her new trio on the first day.

"We need to teach the rookies what the Solheim Cup is all about and they need to deal with the pressure.

"But how do you learn anything from sitting on the sidelines, and just cheering?

"Our three new players played great golf and it bodes really well for the future. They played well and they brought so much energy to our team."

Lopez agreed that 19-year-old Creamer, along with 21-year-old Kim, who has won once on the LPGA Tour, and 22-year-old Gulbis offer a very bright future for the women's game.

"They have class, quality and play with the heart," she said. "I'll admit that, a couple of years ago, I was very worried about the future of the LPGA Tour and American women's golf.

"But not any more. These girls are going to be around for a very long time."

For Creamer, the youngest player in Solheim history, U.S. success provided another landmark for her in a thrilling first season as a professional.

She has won twice on the LPGA Tour, at the Sybase Classic in New York and the Evian Masters in France, and once in Japan and has already secured the 2005 LPGA Rookie of the Year award.

"It was a huge goal of mine to get into the Solheim team," said Creamer, who capped three glorious days with a 7 & 5 singles victory over former world number one Laura Davies.

"But that was only half of the battle because I also wanted to be part of a winning team.

"This is definitely the highlight of my golfing career so far. There is nothing better than representing the U.S. Winning as an individual is one thing, but playing for your country is a whole higher league."

 

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