The old cliche that youth has no fear is often thrown about in sport, but we saw just how nerveless two promising young stars really were at the Solheim Cup as team Europe secured a tense 15-13 win over the United States in Ohio to retain the trophy.
Debutant Leona Maguire couldn't have wished for a better tournament performance. The Irishwoman was the undoubted star of the show despite her rookie status, as she picked up four and a half points from her five match-ups, a new record for a rookie at this event.
"The goal was to get my point," she told Sky Sports. "That's all I can do. I've given it my absolute all this week. I couldn't have given it anything more. I mean, I couldn't have asked for a better week.”
The 26-year-old’s performances put Europe right in contention heading into the conclusion after a remarkable unbeaten week but it was another rookie, Finnish sensation Matilda Castren, who stood up on the final day. She nailed an eight-foot putt when the pressure was turned up to the max to secure Europe’s 14th point, a crucial one that meant they, at the very least, retained the Solheim Cup. "It's just crazy, crazy," said Castren after the win. "I can't believe I made that putt."
It was then left to Emily Pedersen to seal the victory outright as she won the last match on the 18th to set a new record for this event and silence the crowd of 13,000, who had been fervently behind the home team for the entire week. This away victory for the underdogs was not met with whoops or cheers, and polite applause was as good as it got for this young side, who managed to deal with the pressure of being the visiting side impeccably.
Much credit must be given to composed captain Catriona Matthew who, at 52-years-old, is certainly the senior figure of this side. Her experience and composure in key moments, even when the crowd was fired up, was pivotal in guiding the younger players to a historic win. This is now back-to-back titles for the Scot as captain, having guided the side to success in her homeland at Gleneagles in 2019.
With the recent success, Europe have now closed the all-time deficit to 10-7, which is more a reflection of how far our continent has come since the Solheim Cup began in 1990. USA won five of the first seven tournaments but now, under Matthew’s guidance, the tide appears to have turned.
Although Patrick Cantlay hit the headlines for his journey to the $15m price at the FedExCup this weekend, the events in Ohio felt truly special. This was a Europe side who had to go into the lion’s den and deal with a huge amount of pressure. Somehow, even when the pressure was tangible on their shoulders, the young guns pulled Europe through.