NEW YORK — After a two-year qualification period and one last qualifying weekend, 2019 Solheim Cup U.S. captain Juli Inkster decided the two players who would receive her captain’s picks would be players who brought leadership and experience to the team: Solheim Cup veterans Morgan Pressel and Stacy Lewis.
On Sunday, after the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open concluded, 10 of the 12 Solheim Cup automatic roster spots were filled. At the same time as the automatic spots were filling up, Inkster placed a call to Pressel and Lewis about joining Team USA as her captain’s picks. In their sixth and fifth appearances, respectively, Pressel and Lewis will be rounding out Team USA for the 16th edition of The Solheim Cup in Scotland.
“I picked Pressel and Lewis because I felt like I needed some leadership,” Inkster said. “They are great golfers. I thought they could bring a calmness to the team. We have a lot of rookies that are going to be high-strung and ready to go. I really think Pressel and Lewis will just let them know that, ‘Hey, let’s just treat this like any other week and let’s go have fun.'”
In three weeks, The Solheim Cup will return to the “home of golf” for the first time since 2000. Inkster and her team of 12 will take on Team Europe captain Catriona Matthew and her 12 players at the PGA Centenary Course at Gleneagles in Perthshire, Scotland on Sept. 13-15. Team USA will be on the hunt for a third successive Solheim Cup victory under Inkster. And this isn’t lost on the captain’s picks.
For Pressel, this year will mark her sixth appearance representing Team USA at the Solheim Cup and her fourth appearance playing overseas. Pressel did not play in the 2017 Solheim Cup, but Pressel’s 2015 appearance was crucial to the biggest come-from-behind victory in the event’s history to beat Europe 14.5-13.5 in Germany.
“It’s been one of my top goals coming into this season to play in Scotland. I love representing my country and playing for Juli,” Pressel said. “I was definitely disappointed to not play on the team two years ago. But, I’ve had some really good finishes this year and feel like my game is in really good shape. To get the nod from Juli that she wants me on the team is a big confidence boost.”
In the previous years, Lewis didn’t have to rely on a captain’s pick but rather played her way onto the team in 2011, 2013, 2015 and 2017. This year, Lewis returned to the LPGA Tour after giving birth to her daughter Chesnee. One of her goals in her return to golf was to make the Solheim Cup team for the fifth time and represent Team USA.
“I’m just super excited. Over the last year and half with my comeback after having my daughter, I wanted to accomplish this goal. And I did it thanks to the captain’s pick,” Lewis said. “I’m ready to go and do whatever I need to do out there to win. I’m ready to fill whatever role our captain needs me to for the team.”
Before Inkster landed on Pressel and Lewis, she knew that her team was young and full of rookies. Only five of the 10 players have played in at least one Solheim Cup.
With the 2019 Solheim Cup being their fourth appearance, Lexi Thompson and Lizette Salas were the only players to have played on foreign soil. Jessica Korda, Danielle Kang and Angel Yin, all veterans of one Cup, have never competed in Europe for the Solheim Cup. Nelly Korda, Marina Alex, Megan Khang, Brittany Altomare and Annie Park are all Solheim Cup rookies.
With so few players on Team USA with overseas experience, Inkster made sure her captains would bring the experience that her current team was lacking.
“As far as the veterans, they know what to expect. It’s tough, it’s not easy,” Inkster said. “As a rookie you’re just trying to figure it all out. You hear all these stories and everything but they got to figure it out themselves. They are rookies but they are not rookies, they are very seasoned golfers. They have been playing for two years trying to make this team. They accomplished that so they are good golfers. But, the Solheim Cup will be different for them.”
Thompson, Jessica Korda, Kang, Salas, Nelly Korda, Alex and Khang secured the first seven automatic qualifying spots on Inkster’s U.S. team before the CP Women’s Open this past weekend.
It wasn’t until Sunday night that the final three automatic spots were secured by Brittany Altomare, Angel Yin and Annie Park. After finishing with a 4-under 68 to tie for 13th at the CP Women’s Open, Brittany Altomare locked in the final roster spot from the Solheim Cup points standings. Leaving Yin and Park securing the next two spots on Team USA, thanks to their Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings.
When Pressel found out that she would be one of the captain’s picks, she knew that she would have to bring her five years of Solheim Cup knowledge to the young team.
“I remember the first time I played in Sweden in 2007. And just like any rookie, my eyes were wide. It was super overwhelming, and not necessarily in a bad way. It’s just very overwhelming. The emotions that go along with playing, it’s so different than what we have on a week in and week out basis on tour,” Pressel said.
“Now, as my fourth overseas Solheim Cup, I know what to expect to an extent,” Pressel added. “I’m fully aware that Stacy and I were picked for our experience. We don’t need to teach the rookies how to play golf, but we can help with the emotions that come with playing at the Solheim Cup.”
Over the course of three days in Scotland, Team USA and Team Europe will go head-to-head in the biggest event in women’s golf. Following the same format as the Ryder Cup, the teams will face off in 28 matches — eight foursomes and eight fourballs over the first two days and 12 singles on the final day.
For both Pressel and Lewis, they know that the final day will bring about the most nerves for any Solheim Cup rookie and veteran.
But, no matter what, Lewis wants to echo what her captain has told her in the past: “Have fun with it. We’re going there to do work but to have fun. It’s the greatest event in women’s golf. It’s our showcase. The Solheim Cup is electric.”