The Solheim Cup is a biennial golf tournament for professional women golfers contested by teams representing Europe and the United States. It is named after the Norwegian-American golf club manufacturer Karsten Solheim, who was a driving force behind its creation. The inaugural Cup was held in 1990, and the event was staged in even number years until 2002, alternating years with the Ryder Cup (the equivalent men’s event). As part of the general reshuffling of team golf events after the one year postponement of the 2001 Ryder Cup following the attacks on the 11th of September, the Solheim Cup switched to odd numbered years beginning in 2003. The current holders are the U.S. who won at Golf Club St. Leon-Rot in Baden-Württemberg, Germany in 2015. The next contest will be at the Des Moines Golf and Country Club in West Des Moines, Iowa, taking place this year from the 14th to the 20th of August.[caption id="attachment_11834" align="aligncenter" width="552"] Team USA won the 2015 Solheim Cup[/caption]
The format of this event is 28 matches; eight foursomes, eight four-balls and 12 singles on the final day, the same format as the Ryder Cup. The U.S. team is selected by a points system, with American players on the LPGA Tour receiving points for each top-twenty finish. Through the 2013 event, U.S. citizens born outside the country were ineligible for consideration but in 2015, eligibility for Team USA was expanded to include many more categories of female U.S. citizens. For the European team, up to 2005, seven players were selected on a points system based on results on the Ladies European Tour (LET). This allowed top European players who competed mainly on the LPGA Tour to be selected to ensure that the European team was competitive. Since 2007, only the top five players from the LET qualify and another four are selected on the basis of the Women's World Golf Rankings. This reflects the increasing dominance of the LPGA Tour, where almost all top European players spend most of their time. In addition, each team has a number of ‘captain's picks’ which are players chosen at the discretion of the team captains, regardless of their point standings, kind of like a wild card. Team captains are typically recently retired professional golfers with Solheim Cup playing experience, chosen for their experience playing on previous Cup teams and for their ability to lead a team. This year the USA captain is Juli Inkster and the European captain is Annika Sörenstam.[caption id="attachment_11835" align="aligncenter" width="490"] Solheim Cup 2017 European Captain, Annika Sörenstam[/caption]
This year’s Solheim Cup at Des Moines Golf and Country Club in Iowa will have to go a long way to surpass the stunning come-from-behind 14.5 to 13.5 thriller in Germany in 2015, the closest of the 14 matches played. Trailing 10-6 going to Sunday, the U.S. won the last five singles match to take the Cup for the ninth time to five for Europe. One thing the Americans know they will have on their side in Iowa is enthusiasm. When the U.S. Senior Open was held at Des Moines in 1999, the Saturday round set the all time USGA single-day attendance record, which still stands, of more than 52,000. Sadly, it will be the first Solheim Cup played without Louise Solheim, the wife of the late PING founder Karsten Solheim, who died only weeks ago at the age of 99. The magic of the Solheim Cup remains no matter how many times you’ve played in it. “There's nothing like it, standing on that first tee, teeing it up with a partner, you know, maybe it’s a rookie this time,” says Cristie Kerr, who will be playing her ninth Solheim Cup. “To be able to help them and make them feel comfortable, play as a partner.”
If it’s anything like Germany, it will be well worth the watching. And this weekend it will be well worth watching as well to see who picks up Solheim Cup points at the U.S. Women’s Open. It’s the game within the game.