Why mess with success? That seems to be the guiding light behind bringing back two-time winning US Solheim Cup captain Juli Inkster for a third term at the gig.
Inkster was named the captain for the 2019 Solheim Cup, to be played in September of that year at Gleneagles Resort in Scotland, the same place where the American men lost the Ryder Cup in 2014 before giving birth to the Ryder Cup task force. Inkster earning a third term as American captain is unprecedented in the history of the Solheim Cup, which goes back to 1990. However, it seems no other candidate was ever in focus for the selection committee, which turned back to Inkster quickly after the American side crushed an overmatched European side 16.5-11.5 last August in Des Moines, Iowa.
“The chemistry is as good as it’s ever been, the results are as good as they’ve ever been,” said LPGA commissioner Mike Whan on Golf Channel. “We have Bill Belichick on Team USA. We have one of the best captains in history.”
Inkster was brought in after the Americans were drubbed 18-10 on home soil in 2013 at Colorado Golf Club. The players were maligned for losing focus on the team competition and caring more about their appearance and celebrations.
“I wanted to change the culture,” Inkster said. “It’s not about winning. It’s about playing for each other. It’s about playing for the United States. I wanted these girls, after they were done playing, whether we won or lost, to say, 'That was an amazing experience. I want to do that again.’
“I think we needed to get back to the basics of golf, of playing golf. I just think we were getting away from that. We got lost in what the Solheim Cup was all about. It’s not about face paint. It’s about playing for the red, white and blue and playing golf.”
Inkster's approach has worked. The Americans rallied from 4 points down on the final day in Germany in 2015 to beat a game host European side. Then the US team stepped up in Iowa against a European roster filled with inexperience amid a Ladies European Tour schedule in turmoil.
In 2019, Inkster will head her American dozen against Scotland's own Catriona Matthew. For her part, Matthew has already been at work in trying to revamp the selection process to rely slightly less on the LET, which has a new executive director and is looking to get a more secure schedule for its members to earn a realistic living playing on the circuit. For '19, the European selection criteria will change, pulling the first five players from the Rolex Women’s World Rankings list (up from four the last cycle) and the next three off the Ladies European Tour points list. Matthew will have four captain’s picks. Also, a player must now play in eight LET events in the cycle to qualify for the European team. The minimum was previously six.
Matthew believes both sides are properly motivated.
“She might have some pressure on her, but with us losing the last two, we have motivation," Matthew said in a conference call promoting the event. "With some of our players to have been there, with Juli as the opposing captain, it will definitely work well for us.”