Pat Hurst has a tough job to do, but she's up to the task of becoming the new American Solheim Cup captain.
The 20-year LPGA veteran takes over from Juli Inkster, who went 2-1 in her six-year run as captain of the premier team competition in women's golf, pitting 12 American women against 12 European women in a biennial match with a format akin to the Ryder Cup.
Inkster stepped away from the role after a dramatic 14.5-13.5 loss to the Europeans and their captain Catriona Matthew in September 2019 at Gleneagles Resort in Scotland. Matthew is expected to remain captain for 2021, getting an opportunity to lead the European side on American soil after being an assistant captain for Inkster on the last three teams.
"I loved being an assistant captain; loved what I’d learned and seen being around captain Juli Inkster and all those great players on the last three American Solheim Cup teams," Hurst said in an authored piece for the LPGA's website. "I loved being out on the first tee in that amphitheater setting with sound so loud you could feel it. No cheers in women’s golf match the Solheim Cup. Nothing makes your hair stand up or causes tingles to run down your arms like the drama and intensity of those three days."
Hurst, a five-time Solheim Cup player, will captain an American side in flux, as half the US team at Gleneagles was made of Solheim Cup rookies. With a broader pool of players with some experience and the home-field advantage of playing at the Inverness Club in Toledo, Ohio, Hurst still comes into the job with plenty of challenges.
However, Hurst feels prepared. Hurst said she felt Inkster empowered her assistants to help with planning and all other phases of strategy and player management. She thought that prepared her well for this opportunity. Then she got a call from LPGA commissioner Mike Whan while sitting in her car, waiting for her husband to finish errands.
"I’ve never been so nervous answering the phone," Hurst said. "And when I did, my heart sank. Mike said, 'I’m sorry to have to tell you this but I wanted to tell you first.' I think my breathing stopped until he said, 'The job is there if you want it.'
I said, ‘Of course I want it!'”
Since retiring from the LPGA in 2015, Hurst has been the assistant women's golf coach at her alma mater, San Jose State University. Now, she'll have another full-time job in preparing for the Solheim Cup.
"I want to bring the best of what Juli brought and do it with my own personality," Hurst said. "I think I’ve built a lot of trust with the players. I’ll have my own assistant captains and we will make sure players know that we’re there for them. We’ll take care of the details. We want them to go out, play, have fun and make birdies."