Controversy at the Solheim Cup

Suzann-Pettersen-Solheim-CupThere was a controversy over a “gimme” putt at the Solheim Cup and Norway’s Suzann Pettersen got slammed for it.

For my non-golfing readers, a player can concede their opponent’s next putt – one that is usually so short it’s virtually certain of being made anyway – by saying something like “that’s good.”

On the 17th hole of close match, American Alison Lee thought she’d heard one of her European opponents (either Pettersen or Charley Hull) say “that’s good”, so she picked up her 18-inch putt.  But neither Pettersen nor Hull had said it, so the Americans lost the hole and eventually the match.

The controversy stems from the fact that almost all competitors, especially professionals, concede 18-inch putts.  In fact, if your friends don’t give you an 18-inch putt, you need new friends.

But I’m not surprised this controversy was about Pettersen and failure to concede a putt.  I once scored for her in a match and was mortified by her behavior.  She’d consistently walk off the green before her opponent had completed the hole.  Once, her opponent (I think it was Paula Creamer) literally had to look around for Pettersen so she could pick up a 6-inch putt.  But she couldn’t find her because Pettersen had left the green long ago and was already on the next tee!   So Creamer had to make a 6-inch putt.  I’m sure she was fuming.

Suzann Pettersen broke what I maintain is the biggest rule in golf – “sportsmanship first”.  She had won the hole, but in doing so may have lost her reputation.

In her defense, I just saw that she has now apologized – a seemingly heartfelt apology.  So maybe she’s learned – err on the side of graciousness when giving putts.  And whatever you do, don’t leave the green before your opponent has finished the hole.  It’s tantamount to turning your back on someone in the middle of a conversation.





  1. Casey September 21, 2015 at 7:16 pm - Reply

    This was one of the worst things I have ever seen in a golf match. I believe her apology only exists because her lack of grace and sportsmanship blew up in her face. If her intention was to do the right thing, then she would have done the right thing at the time it mattered most.

    • Patty Ellis September 21, 2015 at 8:19 pm - Reply

      Thanks for commenting Casey. I don’t deny the fact that Lee never should have picked it up. But the entire ordeal smelled and the odor was coming from Pettersen.

  2. Liz Tobin September 21, 2015 at 7:39 pm - Reply

    Totally in agreement with you, Patty. I find Pettersen’s habit of leaving the green before everyone has putted out to be extremely unsportsmanlike and think that’s the biggest issue. I don’t even like doing it in friendly games, just to be supportive of everyone. (Only time I do is to run to the restroom and not hold everyone up.)

  3. John September 21, 2015 at 7:41 pm - Reply

    To further your point about leaving the green prior to your opponent finishing the hole, I offer the following anecdote:

    While refereeing a semi-final match in the Long Island Amateur, a player from the host club with approximately 30 club members in attendance and one down in the match, sank a 20 foot putt for birdie on 14. He pumped his fist, screamed “yeah!” and walked to the 15th tee. I was silent. When his opponent rolled in a 12 foot putt for birdie I announced that the hole was halved and the opponent remained 1up. The host club member began screaming “The match is all square! The match is all square! I made birdie!” The club members following the match were deathly silent as I calmly explained that he walked to 15 prematurely and missed his opponent sinking a birdie on top of his birdie for the half. The “early departing” now mightily embarrassed player went on to lose the semi-final 2&1.

    • Patty Ellis September 21, 2015 at 8:17 pm - Reply

      Geeesh, it didn’t take any time for Karma to strike on this one Jon! Great story!!

  4. Jack September 21, 2015 at 8:45 pm - Reply

    Change the rule to eliminate concessions. Put the ball in the hole to win or halve the hole. Also, I agree it’s rude to leave the green before all players complete play.

    • Patty Ellis September 22, 2015 at 12:10 pm - Reply

      Thanks for writing Jack. I really appreciate the feedback!

  5. Brook Lau September 22, 2015 at 9:34 am - Reply

    Another great post, Patty. An apology via Instagram?! That method of apology alone defies authenticity.

    • Patty Ellis September 22, 2015 at 12:09 pm - Reply

      You know Brook, I thought to myself, hmmmm, why instagram? I mean FB maybe, Twitter maybe? But then I thought maybe I’m just old and everyone who’s young uses Instagram! LOL

  6. Margaret September 22, 2015 at 10:41 am - Reply

    The Euro Captain who so fiercely stood by her player maybe should have taken a moment to review the situation more thoroughly first. That’s why there are Captains, veteran leaders, clutch players and rookies on the team. The buck has to stop somewhere and that place rests on the Captain who stands on the corner of the rules and good sportsmanship.

    • Patty Ellis September 22, 2015 at 12:08 pm - Reply

      Really good point. Pettersen took the total hit for the fiasco for a similar reason, she was the “elder statesman” in the twosome.

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