The Sidney Sun-Telegraph - Serving proudly since 1873 as the beautiful Nebraska Panhandle's first newspaper

Sidney golfers inspired by Solheim Cup trip

 

Sidney Red Raiders girls golf coach Jody O'Connell and boys coach Chuck Christensen took a three-hour ride last week with many of their players to Parker, Colo.

The attraction? For the first time in the Solheim Cup's 23-year history, the matches were played west of the Mississippi River. The 13th edition of these matches, played between the finest European and American women golfers, was held at the Colorado Golf Club in Parker.

Both O'Connell and Christensen have played the course, and O'Connel's daughter once worked there.

"It's really a once in a lifetime opportunity to get to see these world-class players up close and in a format like this," said O'Connell. "It's not likely this will be held so close to home for a long, long time."

The group went down to Parker on Thursday to take in a practice round. One of the benefits of visiting the tournament site before the matches begin is better access to players. Once the matches begin on Friday, the women are more about business and have less time to engage with fans.

"Seeing them up close made them seem more human," said Raider Megan Neal. "On television it seems more like a fantasy - They're great, but they miss putts too."

But Neal was able to get closer than just following them from outside the ropes. She collected 10 signatures on her backpack - she even collected the John Hancock of Paula Creamer - the one Coach Christensen couldn't get. Among the other autographs she collected were Stacy Lewis, Michelle Wie, Morgan Pressel and Brittany Lang.

Aside from enjoying some world-class golf, some believed it could help their golf games.

"After I came back, I played a round that was about five shots better than I usually do," said sophomore Rachel Blauert.

Added Taylor Parsons, "It was a great experience to see them play," she said. "You can really analyze their swings and the way they carry themselves. Hopefully that rubs off and we learn some things."

Besides the fun that comes with this once-in-a-lifetime experience, it wasn't lost on the coaches that there may be some more practical lessons from the trip.

"After watching these great players, I think my boys might realize the value of a slower swing and a smooth tempo. They just might find that to be beneficial to them," Christensen said.

After following the golf and getting as many autographs as possible on flags, hats and bags, the group stayed on to watch the opening ceremonies. The festivities included a flag raising while stirring music was being played by the Denver Police Bag Pipe Unit. There were also player introductions and captain's speeches by Liselotte Neumann of Europe (Sweden) and Meg Mallon of the United States.

Unfortunately for the American team, things went downhill after the opening ceremonies. The U.S. lost their second consecutive Solheim Cup - This time by the lopsided score of 18-10. It was the first time the Americans have lost on home soil.

Among the highlights was Sweden's Caroline Hedwall, a captain's pick, who was the first ever to win the maximum possible five matches. In another first, Anna Nordqvist was the first in Solheim history to record a hole-in-one. America still holds an overall 8-5 lead in the series dating back to 1990.

 

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