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Best of 2019: Suzann Pettersen’s epic Solheim Cup walk-off winner

December 23, 2019

A whole new rules rollout, Tiger Woods’ 15th major title, two epic international events and so much more. Here’s a look back at some of the best moments of 2019.

Best of 2019: Suzann Pettersen retires in style

Golf and life aren’t really much alike. But each helps put the other in perspective.

On the cusp of the 2019 Solheim Cup, Suzann Pettersen’s view of both had changed.

For years, she’d worn competitive blinders, focused single-mindedly on her career. That narrowness of purpose produced stellar results, including 22 professional wins and two major titles. But it also led to moments the Norwegian star lamented, most notably an incident at the 2015 Solheim Cup in which she and her partner, Charley Hull, failed to concede a tap-in to their American opponent, Alison Lee, who had swept away the putt thinking it was good, only to be told that she’d lost the hole.

Publicly chastened for a lack of sportsmanship, a tearful Pettersen owned up to her error. “I’m so sorry for not thinking about the bigger picture in the heat of the battle and the competition,“ she wrote in a lengthy social-media mea culpa.

In retrospect, this was the dawn of a broader reckoning that would reshape Pettersen’s priorities. In late 2017, having struggled to conceive with her husband, Christian Ringvold, Pettersen, 36, learned that she pregnant. At first, she thought of playing the 2018 season, but complications with her pregnancy made travel dicey: a reality check that prompted deeper self-reflection, which gave way to her taking maternity leave.

Almost from the instant she opted for time off, Pettersen noticed that a veil had lifted. Her outlook opened to what really mattered. “I realized what an insular bubble I’d been living in for 20 years,” she wrote later in a letter addressed to her infant son, Herman, which was published by the LPGA Tour.

“This was a total break. And I was very comfortable. For the first time, my brain switched to normal.”

Still, an athlete’s competitive fires die hard. Pettersen gave birth in the summer of 2018. In 2019, having played just three events in 18 months, she started banging balls again, encouraged by European Solheim Cup captain Catriona Matthew to round her game into form for one last run at the biennial event. When Matthew selected Pettersen as a captain’s pick, her choice raised eyebrows while raising expectations for a European stalwart whose swing had been in mothballs for a year-and-a-half.

The venue for the matches was Gleneagles, a brawny course in Scotland that doubled as the backdrop for a Hollywood-esque script. “It all leads to this moment.” So went the tagline marketers had used to promote the competition. And sure enough, it all came down to the anchor match on Sunday, with Pettersen pitted against the young American, Marina Alex. A single point for the whole shebang. They came to 18 tied. Both found the green, leaving good looks at birdie. Alex’s bid went begging, curling past the cup. Up stepped Pettersen, and rolled hers in the heart, an epic putt-drop that she followed with a mic-drop.

As pandemonium erupted, her teammates ringing her in celebration, Pettersen spied her husband, holding Herman, through the crowd. That’s when it hit her. She knew what she would do.

“It took a minute for me to find you and your dad in the melee,” Pettersen continued in her letter to Herman. “But when I did, when I looked at you in your father’s arms, I said, ‘This its it. Nothing is ever going to top this.'”

Less than an hour later, still Champagne-soaked, Pettersen announced her retirement from competition.

“I mean, it’s priorities,” she said.

She went to bed that night as a happily married mom and ex-professional golfer, then woke the next morning to the first day of the rest of her life.