It’s odd to consider that for some professional golfers, winning tournaments isn’t everything. Hoisting trophies individually is of course enjoyable and career-defining but many look to the team competitions as the source of their most inspired moments, the times when they’ve shone brightest on the golf course.
As the 17th playing of the Solheim Cup looms, memories are flooding back for former participants at the Senior LPGA Championship with excitement percolating as everyone looks ahead to the competition at Inverness.
Eight-time Solheim Cupper Trish Johnson counts Team Europe’s victory in 1992 at Scotland’s Dalmahoy Country Club among the top winning moments of her career, one that was even more special because of its improbability. Johnson was responsible for one and a half European points in that edition and it’s a victory that’s still incredibly sentimental for the Englishwoman all these years later.
“Dalmahoy will never be forgotten because it was so ridiculous,” said Johnson. “There was no way we could ever win that match. It was like St. Trinian’s playing against an all-star team, but we did. I don’t really know how. The inaugural one we got absolutely annihilated as was expected. We didn’t really expect an awful lot two years later so to win that was kind of ludicrous. The two best victories I’ve ever been part of were the Curtis Cup in 1986 at Prairie Dunes and that Solheim Cup. That’s better than any of my wins. A win is a win, that’s great. But a team event, when you win that, that’s really special.”
Her fellow countrywoman, Dame Laura Davies, holds the record for most points won with 25 over the course of her Solheim Cup career and has made more appearances in the event than any other competitor topping out at 12 from 1990-2011. For Davies, it was the hard-fought battles that she enjoyed just as much as the wins and although some of those matches didn’t always go her way, they were a pleasure nonetheless.
“I was involved in eight losses and four wins so I wasn’t batting a very high percentage of wins,” said the Dame. “Just the memories of enjoying the wins with your teammates. The matches against Inkster were great fun. Paula Creamer and I played a lot against each other. I got thumped 7 & 6 by Creamer once and somehow that’s a good memory. I’m not quite sure how. It was played in such good spirits and that’s the thing about the Solheim.”
Juli Inkster, two-time winning captain and oldest player to ever compete in the event, was a player that just wanted to live in the moment and cherish the experience, never taking the opportunity to represent Team USA for granted.
“You gotta enjoy it while you’re there because you don’t know if you’re going to make another one. My thing was always to enjoy my teammates and get some memories out of it.”
All fun aside though, the Solheim Cup is still an ardent battle, one that’s fought for the love of country and love of continent and it’s not something that participants past and present take lightly. As these former competitors look to next week, all have their opinions on their respective teams and their ability to handle an arduous three days of matches.
“I think it could possibly be the best team we’ve ever had,” said Johnson of Team Europe. “It’s just so strong from one to twelve. I don’t think there’s anyone that’s not in it. But it’s going to be difficult because there are no fans. They’re all going to be American fans. That’s hard. Everybody needs cheering on and it’s going to be quite loud. You’ve got to deal with that.”
Davies echoes that sentiment and considering the four winning Team Europes she was a member of all had the home-team advantage, she knows better than anyone the benefit of a supportive crowd.
“I think what we’ve got is great. I think the deciding factor could be the crowds though. We are not going to have many crowds for the European team. If we can quiet down the American crowd, that will give us our best chance.”
From the United States perspective, Inkster just wants the experience to be a positive one for both teams. She’s been a constant companion of Captain Pat Hurst throughout the entire precursory process and though she’s confident in Team USA’s ability, Inkster understands that the ultimate goal no matter what is growing the game.
“I think Team USA is good,” said the former captain. “They’re young, but they’re good. Same with the European team. They’re young also. I just want both teams to have a great week. We are trying to grow the game of women’s golf. I would love for it to just be about the golf and camaraderie and building relationships for the week and having fun.”
But, with two teams this stacked with talent, the ‘who’s going to win?’ question begs to be asked. Not surprisingly, the Dame has an idea of the answer.
“I think it’ll be a tie and we will retain the Cup.”
We’re a week away from finding out, but when both teams arrive at Inverness, all bets are off and the game will officially be on in the 2021 Solheim Cup.