How To Pick a Solheim Team
Perhaps I say this every year, but it is true every year. The Solheim tournament is one of my favorite golf events, and I get a rush of anticipation whenever the week arrives. We have just experienced two weeks of golfing mayhem, cliff-hanging, fingernail-biting drama in the BMW and the Tour Championship. It gives a fan a certain sort of jolt. It has its own kind of fascination, it’s own aura. The Solheim does the same, but differently.
Don’t get me wrong, Solheim time isn’t about anything dainty, just different. Loving to win and working hard for it doesn’t have anything to do with being male or female. Humans love to compete. During the week where Europe and the U.S. meet for a healthy batch of match play, the ferocity is in full force, although much of it is internalized. It boils beneath the surface. I suppose that there are a few women on tour who growl, chest beat and bay at the moon a little when it comes to competition, but not predominantly.
The worst thing that can happen to a Solheim player, at least this year, is to visit Scotland and play Gleneagles for a week – nice work if you can get it. So, how do you get it? Where is the 2019 American Solheim team coming from? How does a captain assemble a team of the right people playing a certain way at the right time, and likely to be such and such a way when mixed with so and so? I got halfway through the stat sheet on the Americans, and realized that I haven’t a clue. To have a clue, I would have to be Julie Inkster. Anyone can read a stat sheet and say “Choose the top ten.” It must be a lot harder than that. There must be a sea of shifting subtleties under the surface that only someone like Inkster has half a chance of reading. That makes her the first great pick for the American team, and a good chance for an advantage right off the bat.
Inkster has picked a lot of twenty-somethings, a just-above-20 something or two, and a couple of wily veterans from the old days which are really only a couple to a few years ago. As a fan, I love the idea of seeing Morgan Pressel and Stacy Lewis this year. With them will be Nelly and Jessica Korda, Marina Alex, Annie Park, Lexi Thompson and Lizette Salas (who looked like a Hall-of-Famer a week or two ago in a runner-up effort.) Last but not least, Angel Yin and Danielle Kang. That’s your Solheim team for 2019.
How does Inkster do it? The questions must be endless. Who is a good match with whom, and why? Who comes alive for match play? Winners? When did they win, and how recently? Is 2011 better or would last week be more inspiring? Who is Britanny Altomare? A 30 something who almost beat Nordqvist in a playoff. Stacy Lewis watched her roll up nine birdies in a round at the Evian. Who comes alive at the right time, and who doesn’t, or who might? Annie Park, dynamite at USC with one win on tour. Danielle Kang, two U.S. Amateurs, KPMG and one in China. Will this be their week? Angel Yin, won once on the European Tour. Who knows?
And that’s the question – who knows? No one knows what will happen, but in evaluating these people, someone like Inskter sees thousands of things we do not see. Beyond knowing, which she cannot guarantee, she can enter the instinctual, sensing process, where we cannot follow so easily. That means that we have no business second-guessing Inkster, regardless of how it turns out. She goes where only she can go, and gives us the best odds we can find in town.
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And besides, after a week of golf in Scotland, a dream for many of us, these women, many of them friends, will hug, shake hands, and try to get back to the Solheim again next year. Scotland won’t declare war on anyone. No lawsuits will be filed. This is golf. It’s fun, and collaborative, even with opponents. Everyone is lucky to play or watch it.
So sit back and relax. Release that breath. It’s Solheim time