With The Solheim Cup less than a year away, the coming months will be full of new experiences for me. I will share many of the highlights through this Captain’s Diary and am really excited to give you a front-row seat to all the preparation involved in the event.
Recently, I had the invaluable opportunity to spend time with my friend and Europe’s Ryder Cup captain, Darren Clarke. Walking the fairways, hanging out on the first tee, and experiencing his team room at Hazeltine was an important moment in my own captaincy journey that will culminate next August in Des Moines, Iowa. This was my first Ryder Cup and it was thrilling, from the start of the week to the end of the Sunday singles matches. I was extremely impressed by Darren’s grace under the most intense pressure.
Of course the result went against Europe this time around, due to some fantastic golf by the American players. The U.S. got off to a really strong start, building a 4-0 lead in the dramatic first morning of foursomes.
The question many of you may have is ”What can the captain do in that situation?” No doubt it’s a tough spot because so much of his or her work is done before the first tee shot is hit. After literally years of planning and strategizing, in many ways all you can do is hope it will be a good week and try to keep the team loose and ready as possible. For most of the last twenty years, it’s been Europe’s golfers jumping out to a lead, so it’s hardly a surprise that America got their turn. It seemed they were very determined to prove the task force was a major benefit and justify the return of Captain Love to end the losing streak.
I’m very sure that Darren did all he could to win. His attention to detail was impressive, as he utilised cutting-edge data analytics to help build a picture for his players of the specific problems they faced, which in turn informed their strategy. The European team seemed happy in each other’s company and bought into the “shoulder to shoulder” vision Darren used to emphasise team spirit.
Hardly an accident, this program was the culmination of the work he put in to get to know all the players during his tenure. That is a priority for me, too. While I know some of the players very well, I’m keenly aware that some of the young stars on the Ladies European Tour don’t know me beyond seeing me on television playing some pretty good golf as they were growing up. I am beginning the process of engaging with as many of the top players as possible. To that end, I’ll be a regular visitor to the LET and LPGA events over the coming year.
Case in point, I recently hosted a dinner with some of the players during the Evian Championship. It was a fun night, where we talked, laughed and shared stories. There will be more of that sort of thing as we head toward Des Moines next summer.
In the next few months, the players’ performance on the course will determine who makes the team. It’s been good to see recent LPGA success from Caroline Masson and Carlotta Ciganda, both of whom have won in the last month. We will continue to focus on the strategies, planning and execution necessary to ensure that when they walk to the first tee on that opening morning of The Solheim Cup, they will be happy, ready for and focused on the greatest three days of golf they’ll ever experience.