CARMEL, Ind. – The United States won back the Solheim Cup, and picked up a new star along the way.

Paula Creamer, the 19-year-old rookie who all but guaranteed a victory two weeks ago, backed it up Sunday with a crushing victory over Laura Davies that set the tone for an American rout in singles.

The Americans won six of the first seven matches – none of those even reached the 18th hole – and were leading 14-10 when Meg Mallon clinched the cup with a par putt on the 16th hole.

for a 2-up lead, assuring them at least the 14 points required to win the cup and keep their record perfect at home.

Mallon won the next hole with a par to finish a 3-and-1 victory over Karen Stupples, and the celebration was on. Rosie Jones played in the final, meaningless match and earned a halve against Suzann Pettersen. It was the only match that reached the 18th hole on the final day.

The score was 15-12, a perfect sendoff for Jones, 45, who is retiring, and for U.S. captain Nancy Lopez, who drilled her troops through extra sessions of alternate shot before they arrived at Crooked Stick. The matches were tied at 8 going into the last day, an advantage for the Americans because they historically have dominated singles.

Sunday was no exception.

“It’s like a dream,” Lopez said. “They played their hearts out.”

Annika Sorenstam produced the only victory for the Europeans among the first six matches. They needed more help than that, but it was a hopeless cause.

The scoreboard was so awash with American red numbers that when the final twosome teed off on a sunny afternoon at Crooked Stick, Europe was not leading in any of the 12 matches.

And it was the youngest player in Solheim Cup history leading the way.

Creamer, four months removed from her high school commencement in Florida, birdied the first hole against Davies and was on her way. She was 6 up at the turn and won the match with a tee shot that stopped 3 feet above the hole on the 13th, a birdie that was conceded for a 7-and-5 victory.

For the first time all week, the United States had the lead.

“This is a huge feat for me,” Creamer said. “It was one of my goals to get here, and when I got here, I wanted to win. This is an unbelieveable experience.”

Creamer found a small, American flag on the edge of a stream and asked someone in the gallery, “Is this yours?” Then, she tucked it into her ponytail and turned into a cheerleader.

In the groups ahead and behind her, Juli Inkster and Pat Hurst rallied on the back nine and won their matches on the 17th hole as the points began to pile up.

In the maternity match – Laura Diaz and Iben Tinning of Denmark are both pregnant – Diaz won the first three holes and won 6 and 5, stopping on the 13th tee to give Creamer a bear hug. Two other American rookies, 21-year-old Christina Kim and 22-year-old Natalie Gulbis, never trailed in winning their matches.

Attention then shifted to Mallon, who has won more points in the Solheim Cup than any other American. Mallon sank a 6-foot par putt on the 16th hole, then hugged caddie John Kileen as the U.S. team broke into celebration. Her victory gave her 161/2 points in eight Solheim Cups.

But this victory was all about American youth.

Creamer surprised even her teammates two weeks ago when the U.S. team was named with a strong message to the Europeans: “All I can say is they had better get ready, because they’re going to beat.”

Then, she backed it up in a big way.

Over three days, she 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.

“You should never say anything you don’t believe,” Creamer said. “This is a week I’ll never forget.”

Gulbis, still searching for her first LPGA Tour victory, put her hands on the crystal Solheim Cup after going 3-1-0, while Kim was 2-1-1. Together, the three rookies were 8-3-2.

“They’re not rookies to me,” Lopez said. “I had to trust them, and I knew they could do it.”

For Europe, it was another lost chance to win the Solheim Cup on foreign soil. The United States now leads the series 6-3.

“We came here to win, and everyone did their best,” European captain Catrin Nilsmark said. “The Americans just played better.”

The winning captain in Sweden, Nilsmark again played her rookies only one time before the mandatory singles, and this time it might have cost her. Stupples and Ludivine Kreutz never led in their matches, while Gwladys Nocera won in a sloppy match against Cristie Kerr. Europe’s rookies were 1-5-0.

Sorenstam pulled away from 48-year-old Beth Daniel for a 4-and-3 victory, giving her the best record (4-1-0) of any player at Crooked Stick. Her career record is 20-9-3, giving her the most points of any player.

But her team had to listen to the Americans singing, dancing and holding the cup.

“I’m a little disappointed about the outcome,” Sorenstam said. “It was so, so close. But the U.S. team played some great golf.”

AP-ES-09-11-05 1538EDT


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