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Alison Nicholas named Solheim Cup Captain

Europe may only have two players in the top 25 of the women's world rankings but new Solheim Cup captain Alison Nicholas believes her team can claim their first win on U.S. soil in 2009.

"Although the Americans have a young side and are playing well, we've got a good core of experienced players and hopefully in the next two years we'll be able to bring in some youngsters who can give the team a good mix," Nicholas told Reuters on Monday.

"If we prepare well, are mentally strong, believe in ourselves and produce a good team spirit, anything is possible."

Europe, beaten 16-12 by the U.S. in Sweden in September, will need to show the same passion and determination the Briton showed when she eclipsed the great Nancy Lopez to win the 1997 U.S. Open.

"Alison fully understands the difficulty of the task that lies ahead," said Karen Lunn, chairwoman of the Ladies European Tour and the European Solheim Cup committee.

"Her credentials in the U.S., especially her Open victory against Nancy Lopez, who had 20,000-plus fans supporting her in Portland that day, shows she has the grit and ability to win against the odds."

The 45-year-old Nicholas, who takes over from Swede Helen Alfredsson, will draw on her vast Solheim Cup experiences having played in the biennial team event six times and performed the role of vice-captain in 2003 and 2005.

"I will do a lot of communicating over the next two years to try and get everyone together in order to build the right atmosphere that will allow us to bring the cup back to Europe," said the 4-foot-10 Englishwoman.

"I think our players are just as good as the Americans and all we need to do is just believe that and go forward."

Annika Sorenstam is ranked second in the world, two places above Suzann Pettersen of Norway, but Nicholas is unsure whether the 10-times major winner from Sweden will be available for the Illinois match in August 2009.

Sorenstam, 37, is approaching the end of her glittering career and has thoughts of starting a family.

"She would be missed dreadfully," said Nicholas. "I don't know what her plans are for the next two years and obviously I'll be investigating that.

"Annika brings inspiration and confidence and would be a huge addition to the team. She is fantastic and hopefully she'll be playing."

Nicholas, who will be up against U.S. skipper Beth Daniel in two years' time, is also hoping to count on the help of Sorenstam's fellow countrywoman Catrin Nilsmark in the countdown to the 2009 match.

Nilsmark was captain when Europe last lifted the trophy four years ago.

"That was a great experience and I learned an enormous amount," said 1987 British Open champion Nicholas. "Catrin was a very good captain.

"I shall try to draw on her knowledge over the next couple of years to try and build the right relationship with my team so that we can go and have fun and hopefully beat the Americans."



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