Wait, What Happened at the Solheim Cup?

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Golf is a great sport.
I’ve been promising myself that I’m going to get around to really learning
how to play.  And the excitement from this
weekend may have given me the final nudge I need.  As I did my routine check of the sports blogs
I learned that there was a big brouhaha at the Solheim Cup.
For a novice, the story created so many questions.  What’s the Solheim Cup, a concession, and why
is everyone upset?  In true Cecelia
fashion, I set out to get answers.  And
once I got them it occurred to me that there might be others who wanted answers,
so here’s my effort to share what I learned and educate a few people about some
of the rules golf.  

                                           What’s the Solheim Cup?

The Solheim Cup is a biennial professional women’s golf
tournament between the United States and Europe.  That’s right, one country versus an entire
continent. Go USA! The three-day tournament consists of twenty-eight matches—eight
foursomes, eight fourballs and twelve singles.  Players are selected based on their
performances and rankings in the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA),
Ladies European Tour (LET) and Women’s World Golf Rankings.

                             Foursomes, Fourballs and Singles, Oh my!

Here are some key terms to help you understand the Solheim
Cup and the drama*.

Singles: This is what most people think of when they think
of golf.  It’s every woman for
herself.  Each player plays each hole
alone, against a single opponent and the person who wins the most holes (by
taking the fewest strokes), is the winner.

Fourball: This form of play places two teams of two players
directly against one another.  Each
golfer plays her own ball through the round so that there are four balls on the
course at one time.  The team’s score on
each hole is determined by the teammate who scores the lowest, commonly
referred to as the best ball.  Each hole
is won by the team whose member has the lowest score on that hole, and that
team is awarded a point for the hole.

Foursome: This form of play places two teams of two players
directly against one another, but only two balls are in play at one time.  A hole is played when each player alternates
shots with her teammate until the team holes out, or puts the ball in the
hole.  One teammate tees off at even
holes and the other at odd.  The team
that takes the fewest strokes to hole out, wins the hole.  

Concede a Hole:  To
concede a hole is to stop play on a hole and admit that another player has won
the hole.  For instance, if my opponent
shot two under par (the number of strokes set as a standard for a specific
hole) and two shots from par I hit my ball in the woods; I would concede the
hole because at that point there’s no way for me to tie or beat her.  The purpose of conceding a hole is to speed
up play.  

                                             The Thing About Golf

There’s this thing you have to know about golf.  It’s considered a gentlemen’s (and ladies’) game.  There aren’t referees, umpires or line
judges.  Everyone is expected to
self-police and uphold the rules and spirit of the game out of a sense placing
sportsmanship over winning.  Players self-report
their errors because the game is bigger than they are.  That works more times than not, but nothing
and no one is perfect.     

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                          What happened at this year’s Solheim Cup?

During the last day of fourballs US teammates Alison Lee and
Brittany Lincicome were playing the 17th hole against Europeans
Suzann Pettersen and Charley Hull.  Lee
missed a putt and moved on to the 18th hole without completing the hole.  She did so because she believed she heard
someone say that the hole was conceded.  Her
belief was confirmed (at least based on common practice) when Hull immediately and
briskly walked to the 18th hole rather than wait for Lee to finish.  Pettersen later stated that the Europeans had
not conceded the hole.  The rules provide
that a concession has to be clearly stated in order to be valid.  When the Americans could not provide evidence
that a concession had been given, the Europeans were awarded the point and
subsequently won the match.  Essentially,
Hull and most others understood that Hull walking to the 18th hole
signaled a concession.  Pettersen (who
would later apologize) chose
winning over sportsmanship and used Hull’s failure to give a verbal concession to
the Europeans’ advantage.  Her
unsportsmanlike conduct initially paid off, but would ultimately be pointless
because the Americans mounted a comeback in the round of singles and took home
the trophy.  Maybe karma is referee
enough in golf.  

Hopefully, you learned a thing or two.

 

*These explanations apply to match play, which
is a system where a player, or team, earns a point for each hole where they
have beat their opponent.  The opposite
method of keeping score is stroke play, which counts the total number of
strokes over one or more rounds of 18 holes.

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