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Nothing solemn at the Solheim
While the pace of play was glacial, the spectacle that is the Solheim Cup delivered some cracking entertainment. The Europeans, certainly, were made up as both sides wore make-up at Killeen Castle

It hadn't been a very good summer for Captain Horatio Reilley-ffoulle, late of the West Yorkshire Highland Infantry, and Commander St John Pharte, CDM RM (retired). They had played a lot of golf in the early spring, when everything was lovely and everyone was in their shirt sleeves and had smiles on their faces, and then suddenly the weather turned cold and wet and they were to be found most days reclining in the club house, thankful that the club had invested in Sky, although they resented it when occasionally someone had the temerity to come in and switch over to something other than the golf.

St John Pharte had become quite excited when, once or twice, Michael Campbell, one of his particularly favourites and a distant relation who lived on the South Island of New Zealand, put in a good round. But sadly things went no further, which he found very hard to believe as he had always been a great fan of the young Kiwi. Reilley-ffoulle, on the other hand, liked all aggressive play and people who liked eccentric clothes. What a pair they made.

The tournaments came and went. What they really enjoyed about the club's Sky facility was that they didn't have to pay for it themselves. And then the Solheim Cup was suddenly upon them.

They both liked watching the women play, primarily because, in Reilleyffoulle's case, he liked to watch Christina Kim and her rather colourful way of playing. He enjoyed her crash, bang, wallop approach to golf. It took him back to his days of service during the war when he was in a decent skirmish - all guns blazing. On the other hand, St John really enjoyed Catriona Matthew. He looked upon her as the female version of Luke Donald: calm and quiet, getting on with the business in hand, hardly ever missing a shot, showing very little emotion and being almost unbeatable.

Subtlety may not be their strongest suit, but there's no denying the razzmatazz the Americans bring to the Solheim

This year's matches were being played in Ireland, at Killeen Castle, a Jack Nicklaus course which had received some nice publicity. The weather was only fair but not as bad as the previous year's Ryder Cup or, indeed, much of the Open Championship played at Royal St George's.

They were disappointed they didn't see more of the castle. The producer had obviously got a couple of cameras locked on to a particular view that was flashed up every time they wanted to show some results or graphics of what was going on. As for the golf course, they liked the shape and look of the holes but sometimes the camera tilted up and it appeared as if you were in the middle of Canada, with what looked like wheat fields waving away and not a tree in sight. It gave the course, in their eyes, a rather strange and bare look on occasion.

The crowds came in good numbers and they clearly enjoyed the match, particularly as there was a home win, rather like the Ryder Cup, achieved with a last-gasp effort. They weren't too sure about the painted faces of the girls, whether they be European or American, and the fact that sometimes the players had fingernails to match. Granted, the pace of play was abominably slow, as usual, but all in all they enjoyed it.

Having watched the three international events that had taken place over the previous 12 months - the Ryder Cup at Celtic Manor, the Walker Cup at Royal Aberdeen and now the Solheim Cup - they wondered how long it would be before somebody in authority realised how difficult it is to play team matches in Northern Europe at the end of September or the beginning of October. Early-morning fog, frost with the night closing in, fourballs taking six hours, everybody having a notebook and a map of the course, players being lined up by caddies... the whole show takes forever.

Then there's the continual fist-pumping and hand-clapping. And when did the idea of everybody shaking hands at the end of the match come into being? They thought it was nice when caps were doffed and the players shook hands, but now the caddies were involved, not only with a handshake but sometimes with a hug, and that's even for the men. Would it soon include spouses, boyfriends or girlfriends, and even children running on to the 'stage', crying "Whoopee" and clapping hands and crunching knuckles. They sometimes wondered if we were trying to make the game too much like showbiz.

But what a year it had been, and not only for those lads from Northern Ireland who had been going berserk lately. The old boys settled back, ordered another couple of pink gins, and pondered the winter ahead with golf from the Far East, everybody sweating profusely. It was enough to warm their hearts as they prepared for the cold days ahead.

November 2011

Reproduced with kind permission of Golf International Magazine


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