Wednesday marked one year, seven months and 23 days since Pat Hurst was announced as captain for Team USA at the 2021 Solheim Cup. After so many months of hard work and planning – not to mention the confusion and fear caused by the pandemic – it’s finally go time in Toledo.
“With everything that was going on, there was always the uncertainty of not playing. So we are here,” said Hurst. “We're going to do it and it's going to be awesome.”
Hurst’s last two years included numerous scouting trips, countless statistical emails and hours of uniform scripting and venue planning, not to mention the final difficult decisions on who would finally be named to Team USA. She had been an assistant captain in 2015, 2017 and 2019 for her close friend Juli Inkster, but even that couldn’t quite prepare her for the difficulty in having those conversations with the players who came so close but didn’t make the team.
“I don't know anybody that likes to disappoint others and that's what it feels like. I started a year and a half ago watching these girls, watching the top 20, and anytime you have to get to this point, it's hard. They become like, to me, they become like family,” said Hurst. “They may not know that, but I'm watching them all the time. And it's like my kids, I'm watching them all the time. I try to let them do what they want to do, but I'm still mom and I'm still looking over them. And that was the hardest part was having to tell them that I wasn't picking them.”
The tough decisions don’t end this week, as Hurst still must decide who will play and who will sit in the foursome and four-ball sessions. But she’s now backed by a full squad of Assistant Captains in Angela Stanford, Michelle Wie West and Stacy Lewis. Her 12 players have been split into three groups of four – the same Pod System embraced by Inkster after it was first used by Paul Azinger’s 2008 Ryder Cup team – with each assistant imparting her own experience on her pack.
“Nothing compares to these events and Solheim Cup, specifically the first tee and that experience,” said Lewis. “I've done the International Crown, I've done the Olympics, and Solheim Cup is just different. I love opening ceremonies when the flags are being raised. It's just, we don't get that, we get it a couple, you're lucky if you get it every two years. So it's just different, it's an unbelievable honor and it's a team that everybody wants to be on.
It’s the first time on this side of the game for the three assistants, and all are excited to step up to the challenge.
“It's been so amazing being able to watch all the players play. Inverness is such an amazing golf course and just being able to appreciate more of the beauty of it and not just about strategy and whatnot,” said Wie West. “Also more just behind the scenes, just learning how much goes into building this event and all the helpers and everyone. As a player you're obviously appreciative of all the work that everyone has done, but definitely being on this other side having to deal with a lot more of the operational side as well, I'm just so grateful for everything that has gotten this together.”
“It feels like we're really prepared. It's a different feeling than being a player, obviously, but just knowing that we have put in the work and we have done our homework,” added Stanford. “It's been a year, year and a half that we have been kind of putting things together, so it's nice to be here and not feel like you're trying to play catchup or, your plan's in place and we followed it step by step and Pat's done a great job keeping us focused and it's been a lot of fun.”