In just four years the excitement of the Solheim Cup will come to historic Inverness in Toledo. However, this month the 15th renewal of the Solheim Cup will be contested at Des Moines Country Club, August 18-20.
The best women golfers from Europe will compete against the best from the United States in an event, which has become one of the premier golfing competitions in the world. It seems Team USA is always heavily favored to beat the European women and the U.S. has won nine of the 14 Solheim Cups contested. However, Europe has won two of the last three and nearly won in Germany, two years ago.
In 2015 at St. Leon Rot Golf Club in Baden, Germany, Team Europe held a 10-6 lead after the team matches on Friday and Saturday. They needed just 4 full points on Sunday to retain the cup, or 4 1/2 points to win the cup outright.
It wasn’t to be, however, as Lexi Thompson halved the first match out, followed by Morgan Pressel, Alison Lee, Gerina Pillar, Lizette Salas, Angela Stanford, Cristie Kerr, Michelle Wie and Paula Creamer, all winning their matches outright to collect 8 ½ points to win back the Solheim Cup.
The Europeans only managed 3 ½ points from the 12 points available, falling just ½ point shy of the total they needed. It was the most closely contested Solheim Cup in history.
In the late 1980’s the LPGA and the Ladies European Tour discussed the possibility of initiating a Ryder Cup-like competition for women. The owner and founder of PING Golf, Karsten Solheim and his wife had been a huge supporter of women’s golf in the United States and were seeking new avenues to further promote women’s golf.
When they were approached to be involved with the first Solheim Cup in 1990, they signed a one-year contract to sponsor the event, held at Lake Nona in Orlando, Florida. The Solheim’s were so happy with the results of that first competition, they immediately signed on for ten more years and have since extended their sponsorship of the event.
This year Annika Sorenstam will Captain the European team. She will lead a team of eight automatic qualifiers. Four women earn spots on the team from points earned playing the Ladies European Tour (LET). Many of the best European women play primarily on the LPGA Tour in the U.S. and thus do not earn LET points. Four more women earn spots via their rank on the Rolex World Rankings, which lists the top women professionals in the world of golf.
Sorenstam will then have four Captain’s picks to complete the 12-woman squad. This may prove to be a daunting task. She will already have two Solheim Cup rookies Georgina Hall and Florentyna Parker as the top two qualifiers from the LET.
Currently two of the best European women available, Nana Koertz Madsen and Madelene Sagstrom are both playing primarily in the U.S, but both are relatively inexperienced. Caroline Hedwall and Sandra Gal both have Solheim Cup experience and will probably factor in Sorenstam’s decision.
American Captain, Juli Inkster only has two picks as ten women automatically qualify for the U.S. team via the points list.
Lexi Thompson is the top points earner with Stacy Lewis, Gernina Pillar, Cristie Kerr, Jessica Korda, Danielle Kang, Brittany Lang and Michelle Wie rounding out the top eight spots.
Brittany Lincicome and Lizette Salas are number nine and 10, earning spots via their Rolex World Ranking.
Just outside an automatic berth are Austin Ernst, Jennifer Song, Alison Lee, Mo Martin and LPGA Tour rookie, Marina Alex.
Alex finished T-11 at the U.S. Women’s Open, the best finish by an American. Lee has previous Solheim Cup experience. Inkster’s final two picks will probably come from these five women.
The Solheim Cup has become a huge international sporting event and over 70% of fans that attend travel from Europe or various portions of the U.S. to view the action first hand.
Every match is carried live on television and large corporations have jumped on board to sponsor the event.
The Solheim Cup provides needed income for the LET, which has suffered of late from sponsors backing out of tournaments causing several to be canceled.
The Solheim Cup elevates women’s golf and has brought a Ryder Cup or Presidents Cup feel to ladies golf. The stakes are high for both teams, as well as, the individual team members that can become instant media darlings, and earn increased sponsorship dollars.
Mark the dates August 18-20 on your calendar and watch the biggest event in women’s sports, the 15th Solheim Cup.