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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Creamer leads U.S. to Solheim victory

Doug Ferguson Associated Press

CARMEL, Ind. – Juli Inkster saw flags waving, heard chants of “U-S-A!” and felt a lump in her throat on the practice range, the intensity building before the first match Sunday in the Solheim Cup.

She gathered all the American players she could find. With their hands together in a collective fist, they broke huddle with a shout that carried them to victory and kept their record perfect on home soil.

“FINISH!”

“That was our key phrase,” Paula Creamer said. “They don’t remember how you start, but how you finish.”

Creamer made sure the start sent a message just as powerful.

The United States won back the Solheim Cup and picked up a new star along the way – Creamer, the 19-year-old rookie who all but guaranteed victory and then backed it up with a crushing win over Laura Davies that set the tone for an American rout in singles.

The finish turned out to be anticlimactic. The only match that reached the 18th hole was the last one, when Rosie Jones earned a halve with Suzann Pettersen. All that did was provide a final score for posterity.

United States 15 1/2 , Europe 12 1/2 .

“It’s like a dream,” U.S. captain Nancy Lopez said. “These players played their hearts out.”

The matches were tied going into the last day for the first time in 11 years, but not for long. The scoreboard was awash in so much American red that when Jones teed off in the final twosome, Europe did not lead in any match.

Creamer, who went through her high school commencement just four months ago, shot 30 on the front nine and buried Davies, 7 and 5, as the Americans won six of the first seven matches.

“I saw after nine holes she was 6 up,” said Pat Hurst, who rallied in the match behind Creamer. “She’s our rookie, and she was unbelievable.”

The Europeans were in a state of shock.

“You’re thinking about your own match, but it’s hard not to look at the board,” Carin Koch said. “With all the matches going the wrong way for us, it was tough. We’ve done everything we can.”

Meg Mallon clinched the cup for the United States with a par putt on the 16th hole for a 2-up lead, assuring the Americans at least the 14 1/2 points they needed to win it back from Europe.

Mallon won the next hole with a par for a 3-and-1 victory over Karen Stupples, and the celebration was on. Players joined arms in a chorus line dance, rambled down fairways with an American flag and sang to the record gallery. Inkster took a camera from her bag before her caddie took it away.

The only downer was after the closing ceremonies.

Lopez said Mallon became light-headed because of the heat, and was taken to the hospital as a precaution. It left a U.S. team that was slightly more somber, but still all smiles about the trophy before them.

Europe was subdued for obvious reasons.

“I’m not one to grieve too hard or too long over golf,” European captain Catrin Nilsmark said. “I’m disappointed, mostly for the girls. They tried their best and they did their best. … But we got down by so much. There were some big numbers up there.”

The youngest player in Solheim Cup history led the way.

Over three days, Creamer was in the toughest matches and came through with clutch shots and fearless putting.

She played all five matches and went 3-1-1, the biggest of all her rout against Davies. Starting with her opening birdie, Creamer was 7 under par through 13 holes.

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