If the strength of the U.S. Solheim Cup captains is any indication of how well their team will play at this year’s event, then American fans will have something to cheer about.
Captain Juli Inkster has two top-15 finishes in her last two starts, so it should come as no surprise her assistant captain Pat Hurst is also near the top of the leaderboard this week. The six-time winner on the LPGA Tour carded a season low 5-under par, 66 on Thursday to pull within one stroke of leader Joanna Klatten.
While she’s making just her fourth start this season, Hurst says she practices as often as possible but only plays once a week. She got a good round going last Friday and was able to carry over that momentum this week on the River Course, a track that sets up well for big hitters like Hurst who is currently ranked 10th in driving distance on Tour.
“You got to hit the ball well out here,” Hurst said after her round Thursday. “It does favor a longer hitter, but you just got to be on the right, it's all about the angles out here and being on the right side of the fairway and the way you come into the greens. If you're hitting the ball good, it's easier to put them in that spot.”
Hurst has had varied success at Kingsmill Resort. In her nine starts, she has four missed cuts and two top-10 finishes, including at T-4 in 2006. But her caddie could be the key to her opening round success, having just as much experience as the 21-year Tour veteran.
“Between my caddie and I, we picked the right clubs into the greens. Some greens you don't want to be long and some it's okay to be short. Some you don't want to be short you want to be longer. He knows the golf course just as well as I do. We kind of put our two heads together and it worked.”
Hurst turned pro in 1994 and says no matter how long she’s on tour, she’s still enjoying each time she tees it up.
“It's fun,” Hurst said. “No matter where you are or what you're playing in, any time you play well it's a lot of fun and makes you want to keep coming back.”
Hurst is grouped with Austin Ernst and Chella Choi Friday. They tee off the 10th hole at 12:59pm.