WEST DES MOINES, Iowa – The magic of tradition is that it transcends individuals and bridges generations. This 15th Solheim Cup represents a new era in the most intense team competition in women’s golf, a third generation of what has grown into a really rocking rivalry.
When play begins Friday at Des Moines G&CC, seven of the 24 players – three from the United States and four for Europe – will be feeling the nerves of the Solheim Cup for the very first time. And only Suzann Pettersen for Europe (8); Cristie Kerr (8), Paula Creamer (6) and Brittany Lincicome (5) for the U.S. side will have played in more than four.
This is a true changing of the guard, building on the tradition started in 1990 by the first generation of Solheim Cup players. Europe, especially, seems to be welcoming a new generation to its team.
Laura Davies of England, who played in a record 12 Solheim Cups, and Sweden’s Sophie Gustafson, who competed eight times, both last played in 2011. Scotland’s Catriona Matthew, also with eight appearances, was named assistant captain and alternate and replaced Suzann Pettersen on Wednesday after she withdrew with a back injury. That first generation of Solheim players for Europe also included Trish Johnson, who competed in eight of the first 10, as well as Liselotte Neumann and Alison Nicholas, who were also at Lake Nona in 1990 and competed for Europe six times each.
For the Americans, Beth Daniel was on eight of the first nine teams with this year’s captain, Juli Inkster, appearing nine times and Meg Mallon eight, both beginning with the second competition in 1992. Rosie Jones and Dottie Pepper played in 1990 and finished with seven and six appearances respectively.
The second generation was marked by the Swedes for Europe – Gustafson and Annika Sorenstam appearing eight times; Maria Hjorth and Catrin Nilsmark five each. Kelly Robbins (6), Pat Hurst (5), Michele Redman (4) were among that second generation for the Americans as were Angela Stanford (6) and Morgan Pressel (5), both missing from the U.S. side this time around after lengthy runs.
The United States has a distinct advantage. In addition to Creamer, Lincicome and Kerr, who will tie Inkster’s record nine appearances this week, in Michelle Wie and Brittany Lang the Yanks have a duo who each have four appearances while Stacy Lewis is a veteran of three. The 12 Americans combine for 36 Solheim Cups while Europe has only 24.
But the new faces are not to be taken lightly. They are a young and talented bunch with the seven having an average age of 23.
The four rookies for Europe are:
- Georgia Hall, 21, England, was T-3 in this year’s Ricoh Women’s British Open and won the 2013 British Ladies Amateur.
- Emily Kristine Pedersen, 21, Denmark, has won on the LET, was 2015 LET Rookie of the Year and won the 2014 British Ladies Amateur.
- Florentyna Parker, 28, England, has three LET victories, including one in a playoff over Solheim Cup teammates Carlota Ciganda and Anna Nordqvist this past April.
- Madelene Sagstrom, 24, Sweden, earned her LPGA card by winning three times on the Symetra Tour in 2016. She was T-11 at this year’s KPMG Women’s PGA.
The three rookies for the United States are:
- Danielle Kang, 24, winner of the KPMG Women’s PGA this year and the U.S. Women’s Amateur in 2010 and 2011.
- Austin Ernst, 25., has an LPGA victory under her belt and was 2011 NCAA individual champion while at LSU.
- Angel Yin, 18, is currently second in Rookie of the Year points; seventh in driving distance at 272.37 yards per whack and has a nifty scoring average of 70.64.
Some new faces? No doubt. But there is enough talent there that you just know that one or two – perhaps several – will emerge as Solheim Cup mainstays and, a decade down the road, we will be writing about their role in the Solhiem Cup legacy, their place in history, their thread in the cloth of this growing tradition.