In the days between the AIG Women’s Open and the Solheim Cup, LPGA.com caught up with the captains of the U.S. and European teams for a Q&A. Here is Captain Pat Hurst:
Q: What have the last three weeks been like for you?
Captain Pat: I’ve been looking at the stats, seeing how everyone was playing. Going over to Scotland I wasn’t as focused on the golf over there as I was with how they played over here, primarily because links golf is so different. Still, it all adds up. You have to take everything into consideration. I was looking at who was playing the hottest. That’s how I made my picks.
Q: Did you just go with the hot hands?
Captain Pat: Absolutely. We’re playing in a week. Why wouldn’t you go with the hottest hands out there? That’s the beauty of being able to pick a week before (the matches begin).
Q: How stressful was this process for you and has that stress diminished now that we’re almost to the golf course?
Captain Pat: I think the hardest part of this (Solheim Cup cycle) has been COVID. I didn’t really get to know the girls off the golf course and a locker-room setting as much as I would have liked. That was difficult.
The stress level going into the AIG Women’s Open was actually a lot less because, with very few exceptions, it looked like the writing was on the wall. After our team building gathering at Reynolds (Lake Oconee in Georgia after the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship) Mina started playing awesome. It was like being there, being considered, fired her up and got her playing some really good golf. I liked seeing that in her.
Unfortunately, Yealimi (Noh) couldn’t make it to Reynolds but she’s played well for the last two months.
Of course, we looked at the stats and were as prepared as we could be. But the stress level wasn’t as high as I thought. The hardest part was the phone calls to the girls who didn’t make it. That’s really though. They all become like family to you. I’ve been watching them for the last year and a half, whether it’s in person or on television or following their stats, and I feel like they’re part of me now. I told all of them that afterward. I thanked them for being part of the whole process and I told them that they would always be like family to me.
Q: Speaking of those conversations, how difficult was the one with Stacy Lewis, knowing that you were going to ask her to be an assistant captain?
Captain Pat: I talked to Stacy back in Las Vegas and told that one way or another, I wanted her there. Whether she played her way onto the team or not, I wanted her there no matter what. And she was all-in for that.
Q: When Paul Azinger created the pod system back in 2008, he already had the pods filled out. He made his picks based on who fit best in each pod. It was personality based. Was that a consideration for you?
Captain Pat: We were looking at it from all different angles. We did have a behavioral study done, so we knew who would fit best where. Michelle (Wie West) and Angela (Stanford), they loved every minute of this. We went through each pod and we were asking, ‘Okay, where would Mina fit in?’ ‘Where would Yealimi fit in?’ And that’s how we did it.
Q: When you look at players who have won more than once in the last 12 months, Ally Ewing pops up on that list pretty quick. How impressive has her rise been since the last Solheim Cup?
Captain Pat: In 2019, we had a lot of (Solheim Cup) rookies on that team, five in total before the picks. Ally was high on the list going into the picks, but I think it was hard for Juli to go with her because she would have been another rookie on a team that was full of them. But then Stacy got hurt and Ally was on the team.
Once you play in a setting like the Solheim Cup, it can either hurt you or help you in the future. For most of these athletes, I think it helps them to get better having felt that pressure and having been in that environment. Ally is a prime example. She has just taken off in the last year. I watched her in Las Vegas at the (Bank of Hope) Match Play, and it was impressive. She fought a lot of those matches all the way to the end.
I’m thrilled to have her. When you talk about a team leader, Ally is going to be a team leader for many years to come.
Q: How much attention did you pay to the Bank of Hope Match Play and the Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational, which is a team event?
Captain Pat: I didn’t go to Dow this year. I felt like I’d been to a lot of tournaments and there were only two or three pairings at Dow that could have been on the team. But I did pay close attention in Vegas.
Q: Have you started thinking about pairings?
Captain Pat: We have a call tonight with the assistant captains to go over the pods and make sure the everybody is on board. After that, we’ll start thinking about pairings. Most of the players are saying, ‘I don’t care who I play with, I just can’t wait to get there.’ That is a good place to be.
Q: Speaking of getting there, when do you arrive?
Captain Pat: All of us are getting in on Monday.
Q: Do you have a speech planned?
Captain Pat: I’m just going to go with the flow. I don’t have anyone special coming in. But I’m going to talk to the team about the pods, the pairings, and I’m going to get them in a match-play frame of mind.
But I’m just like the players; I can’t wait to get there.