Controversy at Solheim Cup

Pettersen apologizes to US team following controversial decision

Photo: Wojciech Migda / Wikimedia   Norway’s Suzann Pettersen at the 2011 Ricoh Women’s British Open in Carnoustie, Scotland.

Photo: Wojciech Migda / Wikimedia
Norway’s Suzann Pettersen at the 2011 Ricoh Women’s British Open in Carnoustie, Scotland.

Molly Jones
Norwegian American Weekly

There’s no doubt that Norwegian professional golfer Suzann Pettersen made it in to the spotlight at this year’s Solheim Cup in St. Leon-Rot, Germany—only it wasn’t positive attention, but rather harsh criticism for breaking the unwritten rules of fair play.

The controversial match occurred on September 20, the third and final day of the tournament between the U.S. and Europe. In a fourball match, Pettersen (commonly referred to as “Tutta”) and her teammate Charley Hull of England faced Americans Alison Lee and Brittany Lincicome.

Drama ensued on the 17th green when Lee had a final 18-inch putt and picked up the ball, claiming she heard someone from the European team concede the putt. Pettersen had not conceded, however, and insisted on contesting the point. The Americans therefore lost the significant match against the Europeans.

Although Pettersen did follow the rules of the game—and Lee should have been absolutely sure the putt was conceded before she picked it up—Pettersen immediately received criticism for violating the spirit of the game.

Tutta initially defended her decision, telling NRK: “They were the ones who overreacted. We played by the book, and unfortunately the American made a mistake. We can’t do anything about that.”

On the other hand, Hull disagreed with her teammate’s harshness and was seen crying after the match. “I felt really bad because of what happened,” Hull told golfchannel.com. “I was just upset. I felt sorry for her, but at the end of the day, rules are rules.”

Some of Norway’s top golf experts have responded to the incident, stating their disapproval of Pettersen’s actions and concerns about the consequences.

“It is some of the worst I have seen. It was not good at all. Suzann broke all of the unwritten rules,” said commentator and former professional golfer Per Haugsrud. “I’m awfully worried that what she has built up through 15 years of good play has been torn down within seconds. People have short memories.”

Similarly, golf expert Hallvard Flatland argues: “Tutta has her headquarters in the U.S. and plays the majority of her tournaments there. She will be extremely unpopular among the public there. I think this will stick with her for many years.”

Nevertheless, the teams headed into the singles amid all of the drama of the morning’s fourball match. At this point, the U.S. team trailed 6-10 and would require the biggest comeback in the history of the Solheim Cup to win. Citing extra motivation from the controversy, the Americans entered into the singles with determination and dominated the Europeans.

Upon returning to the green to face Angela Stanford, Tutta told Eurosport: “We met an ice front when we came out onto the course. We were fully prepared for it. They hated us.”

The American started in the lead, but as usual Pettersen came back to tie it at the 14th green. But with birdies on the 15th and 16th holes, Stanford took the lead once again and ended with a 2&1 victory.

With a final score of 14.5 to 13.5, the Americans did indeed make the biggest comeback to defeat the Europeans and take the Solheim Cup back to the U.S. for the first time since 2009.

Although Pettersen continued to defend herself at the end of the tournament, the Norwegian made a public apology on Instagram the following day:

“I’ve never felt more gutted and truly sad about what went down Sunday on the 17th at the Solheim Cup. I am so sorry for not thinking about the bigger picture in the heat of the battle and competition. I was trying my hardest for my team and put the single match and the point that could be earned ahead of sportsmanship and the game of golf itself! I feel like I let my team down and I am sorry,” writes Pettersen, who added that she apologized to U.S. captain Juli Inkster face-to-face following the tournament. “I hope in time the U.S. team will forgive me and know that I have learned a valuable lesson about what is truly important in this great game of golf which has given me so much in my life,” she continued.

Pettersen has certainly broken some ties with the U.S. golf community, but many see this apology as a positive first step to improving this vital relationship.

This article originally appeared in the Oct. 9, 2015, issue of the Norwegian American Weekly. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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