Pettersen, Solheim – the Perfect Finish

Suzanne Pettersen Retires at High Point

I can’t put my finger on what it is about the Solheim Cup. There is an uplifting feeling that I get watching it, one I don’t even feel at the Masters. It’s not just because it’s a continental battle, but the way in which it is waged. Talk about stepping on necks and taking souls all you want, but there’s a joy and camaraderie to Solheim that belongs only to that tournament. Suzanne Pettersen just made it even better than usual. As I’ve said before, I don’t get very nationalistic about these things, and my favorite golfers come from virtually everywhere. The big story, among others, was that Pettersen got what everyone would like – a heroic win and the perfect moment in which to retire, blinking in front of her in neon lights.

The singles matches were supposed to go the Americans’ way, but several Europeans had a different idea. If the whole tournament came to a draw, the cup would remain in American hands. Enter Pettersen, and her seemingly nonchalant eight-foot putt on the 18th, walking off the green with the tournament. With no regrets, she puts a brilliant career behind her, with 15 wins and two majors. She goes home to a son born last year, and a wide open menu for whatever she might want to do next.

For now, she revels in the lack of agenda – there are no “gottas” on the schedule, only basking in what just happened, and dropping all the plane flights to be with family instead. People who get to do that more often than not didn’t make it as they had hoped. Pettersen couldn’t have written the script better, as a winner from the first tournament of her career to the last.
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I have met Pettersen once, and it was harder than asking a girl to dance in the 4th grade, despite the fact that she’s perfectly friendly. She is also a high octane competitor, and as long as she’s on the course’s premises, that dynamic is at work. I knew that this was not the person to be silly or fog-brained around. I made it quick, appropriate if not dazzling, and made it out of there without getting the look. Pettersen has a different aura approaching the first tee. Others are into the process of arranging their game, but the Norwegian is also competing, against the course, everyone on it, and the fates – a very strong person, inside and out.

To quit at precisely the right time takes clarity and courage. In all manner of physical professions, people seem unable to quit, even if they’ve lost the skills or the zest to use them. Obviously, Pettersen still has the skills, and that should have made it all the harder. But, she senses the biorhythm of her own life – “Nothing will ever beat this, so I think we can just say enough is enough.” Well put, at a tournament she has always enjoyed.

I feel a low-level vicarious embarrassment for the odds-makers.  Golf is one of the most difficult games to predict in any format, and I don’t know why they even try. The Americans were favored to win, but the Europeans sat around chuckling at that notion, and it’s easy to see why. In a game that can vault you to the top and desert  you tomorrow morning, or on the next nine, why bother? Las Vegas should just shut its doors when the Solheim rolls around.  Speaking of that, I wish it would roll around more often. Match play of this type is really a breath of fresh air in professional golf

Congratulations are due to Captains Catriona Matthews and Julie Inkster. Win or lose, they were wonderful choices for the job, and helped to create the natural elation produced by the event. We all got Gleneagles for a weekend, and I still think that those plaid jackets could take a stroke or two off anyone’s score.

For Suzanne Pettersen, the ending is both spectacular and perfect. I hope the glow lasts a very long time.

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