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Don't hold your breath
Who is going to win the Solheim Cup in Minnesota on Sunday? Err, eh, well I'm not sure, but... Oh, okay, I can't sit on the fence. The Americans are going to win, and I'll even predict the score. It will be 16.5-11.5. There, who can say I'm not decisive?

I'll probably be proved totally wrong - what's new? - but I just have an inkling that the US team are showing form at just the right time, and Catrin Nilsmark's ill-timed remarks degrading a number of the American players has certainly not helped the European cause.

Even Laura Davies, a good friend of Catrin's, admits it was 'a massive misjudgment' on the Swede's part, while US Captain, Patty Sheehan, slightly tongue in cheek, laughed it off.

'It's wonderful,' she beamed. 'It's added a little spice, and helped pull my team even closer together. Not that they needed it. They're all really up for this week. They're desperate to win the cup back.'

Europe could certainly sneak it, but I really do feel that the Americans have the edge in too many departments. They are more accustomed to US conditions, they have all won on the LPGA Tour (six Europeans haven't) and the home fans could also play a vital role. Of course, if Europe does break the mould by winning on US soil for the first time and reduce the margin to 4-3 for the US overall, then Scot Dale Reid will be the heroine of all heroines.

Never afraid to take her own stance, the Ladybank veteran was rewarded for her 'gut feeling' selections at Loch Lomond two years ago with a magnificent triumph. And she'll certainly be able to give a two-finger salute in a few directions if she is seen hoisting the famous Waterford Crystal trophy above her head come Sunday evening at Interlachen.

For Scot Mhairi McKay, it is also a huge week. She hasn't exactly hit top form since gaining one of Reid's wild cards. In fact, after a fortnight's break, she has missed the cut in the last two LPGA tournaments.

However, she has been buoyed by the news that her older sister, Fiona - they played together in Scottish amateur teams - gave birth to a second son (Daniel) last Friday, and that means that her mum and dad, Mary and Peter, have been able to fly out to Minneapolis for the start of the matches on Friday.

Her US-based coach, Chris Walkey, is also going to be on hand to supply some welcome words of encouragement, so all Mhairi needs to do now is to produce the goods and reward Reid's faith.

While the always larger than life Laura Davies and world No. 1 Annika Sorenstam will be key figures for Europe, the Americans will be relying on US Open Champion Juli Inkster to lead from the front. And although Dottie Pepper has been forced to withdraw from the event through injury - she has still not recovered from an early season operation - the most famous of cheerleaders will be around to fulfil many a role.

'Dottie earned her right to be on the team, so she will be with us all week,' explained Sheehan, who has just been re-appointed captain for next year's matches at Barseback in Sweden.

'She will be a really inspirational character; a real rabble-rouser. She's also very friendly with quite a few of the younger players so, even although she isn't playing, I know she is going to be a tremendous asset to the team.'

Unfortunately, because the Solheim clashes with Tiger Woods playing in the WC American Express Championship at Mount Juliet in Ireland, and the fact that it is just a week before the Ryder Cup, attention on happenings at Interlachen has been severely restricted. But if Europe proves me wrong - and I hope Dale does achieve something that would have been unthinkable when the cup was introduced back in 1990 - then hopefully it will produce an explosion of interest in the women's game in Europe.

After Loch Lomond, Reid was honoured with an OBE. Could it be Dame Dale if she wins at Interlachen?

©    18 - SEPTEMBER 2002

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