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reports from Loch Lomond
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Europe's Alison Nicholas
"Very important to get off to a good start."
 real 14k

Sunday, 8 October, 2000, 08:23 GMT 09:23 UK
Reid hailed by her players
Alison Nicholas
Alison Nicholas swings out in the driving rain.
By BBC Sport Online's Clive Lindsay

A team room like a nut-house, a rude song or two, an out-of-character inspiring speech and a firm yet listening captain have put Europe on the verge of a famous win at Loch Lomond.

Helen Alfredsson and Alison Nicholas emerged from a rain-sodden course victorious and displaying the kind of unity of purpose and, at times hilarious, comaradarie that put their side 7.5-2.5 ahead before Saturday's suspension of play due to rain.

Following their 3 and 2 victory over Juli Inkster and Sherri Steinhauer, the Swedish-English partnership took time to wax lyrical about the leadership being displayed by team captain Dale Reid.

Nicholas, indeed, contrasted it favourably with the reign of Pia Nielsson during the failed attempt to win back the cup two years ago.

Very open

"Every day Dale told us who is playing and every evening she has talked to all the players before any announcements," said the English player.

"She has been very open and honest and I think that's brought the team together.

"I think, in the past, certainly last time, that wasn't the case.

"Dale knows we've all won tournaments and championships and has just let us do our own thing.

Good atmosphere

"But she has been there and done it herself, so she knows how the players want things."

Alfredsson agreed: "I think Dale has been creating a very good atmsophere, setting some rules and being very open with everything and talking to everybody.

"I think she has been very firm in what she has believed in.

"When you feel that somebody has the confidence, it is easier and that triggers it for the rest of the team."

However, besides the serious purpose, there has been a lighter side, Nicholas describing Reid as "a complete nutter" and Alfredsson adding: "I think it is a nut-house, our team room."

The pair recounted the song made up Catrin Nilsmark that had the rest of the players baffled but joining in a chorus about "orangutans and too bad words."

They also had high praise for the now much mentioned, and unexpected, pre-match speech by Annika Sorenstam, saying it had helped unite them towards their common goal.

Inspirational start

Everyone has to play their part in Solheim Cup golf and the baton of responsibility is being well and truly passed around this European side.

On Friday morning, it was Laura Davies and Alison Nicholas whose inspirational start set the tone for the home side.

In the afternoon, it was Sorenstam and Janice Moodie who held back the tide of the US fightback.

On Saturday morning, it was Sophie Gustafson's turn to be the pivotal figure.

Four birdies

The Swede, the youngest member of the European team, took the weight of responsibility on her 26-year-old shoulders and her four birdies in a row from the third hole set up a 3 and 2 victory for her and partner Trish Johnson.

Johnson played her part too, her birdie on the sixteenth clinching the point, but suggested that it was her team-mate who deserved the lion's share of the praise as they stretched their unbeaten record to three matches.

Recounting Gustafson's birdie two at the 11th against Rosie Jones and Becky Iverson, Johnson said: "It was 210 yards to the flag, straight uphill into driving rain - that was an incredible birdie.

"It is incredibly easy to gel with someone who is playing out of her skin.

Most enjoyable

"It has probably been the most enjoyable two days of golf I've ever played."

Having a now famous stammer that prevents her taking a high public profile, Gustafson is letting her golf do the talking for her, having won this year's British Open.

However, asked if she had ever played better, Gustafson admitted: "I've played better on individual holes.

"But, over a whole round, I think I am playing better."

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See also:

07 Oct 00 |  Golf
Full day expected at Solheim
28 Sep 00 |  Golf
Green light for Solheim Cup
06 Oct 00 |  Golf
Europe hold Solheim lead
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