I got sucked in last Sunday. It was only meant to be a fleeting visit; check the score and move on. Three absorbing hours later and the wave of emotion was enough to bring a tear to a glass eye by the time Suzann Pettersen made her final stroke in professional golf.
On a beautiful sunny afternoon in the Perthshire countryside, the unthinkable began to emerge. The final day of the Solheim Cup looked destined to become a star-spangled celebration at Gleneagles. The red hue on the leaderboard became ever more apparent and at one stage the numbers simply wouldn’t add up for Europe.
The stage looked set for Catriona ‘Beanie’ Matthew’s charges to heroically come up just short on her home soil. Gallant in defeat to the dominant force of this women’s biennial team encounter.
Carlota Ciganda secured the top match for Europe while Georgia Hall and Celine Boutier kept blue on the board but it was the American middle order that was seemingly going to do the damage and get Juli Inkster’s side to 14 points to retain the trophy.
Then something stirred. The winds changed and nobody was prepared for the roller-coaster that ensued.
Bronte Law rectified some early mistakes and her sheer tenacity and will to win got her fired up to win three of the last five holes and turn her match around. Meanwhile Anna Nordqvist was always in control in the anchor match.
All of which meant the stage was set for wildcard pick Pettersen. The numbers were edging back in Europe’s favour but Pettersen still had to deliver the goods against Marina Alex.
Despite a drive leaked right behind a tree at the 18th, the steely Norwegian crafted one of the most composed, and decisive, closing hole birdies for the historic win. It simply couldn’t have been scripted any better.
“It was all just a big blur. It was a good putt, left side,” beamed Pettersen, immediately after the dramatic win. “I didn’t know it was to win the Solheim Cup. I knew it was close, I mean Beanie came to me walking up 18 and I said ‘Beanie, really, is this the moment?’ She goes ‘well that’s why I picked you’.”
That it turned out to be Pettersen’s final contribution to women’s professional golf ensures her legendary status becomes ever greater over time. The 38-year-old’s retirement from the game immediately after holing the winning putt may have appeared knee jerk, but once processed, it makes total sense. The embracing hug between mum and baby son amid the chaos on the 18th green said it all. For Pettersen, life outside golf had already begun some time ago.
Matthew had simply opened the door for one of the game’s legends to walk back through it for a brief time. And what a contribution it turned out to be.
Pettersen has always been an impressive individual throughout her career. Two Majors, number two in the world, nine Solheim Cups, the list goes on, but most of all she has the respect of her peers. Players looked up to Pettersen, she was the benchmark which others aspired to.
There was a genuine honesty and raw emotion to what unfolded at Gleneagles. Pettersen put herself back in the cauldron of pressure despite being so lightly raced – but she had the courage of her convictions.
“Never in my wildest dreams did I think I was going to do this again, especially from where I came from. You’ve just got to grab the moment I guess and trust what you do, trust that you are good enough.”
Pettersen was more than good enough once again. She was the focal point of an iconic moment. That she now exits stage left simply enhances the narrative of a true legend of the game.