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The Big Teams Events – Solheim Cup 2023

The Big Teams Events - Solheim Cup 2023
(Action Plus Sports Images/Alamy)

The Solheim Cup is the women’s match-play event, equivalent to the men’s Ryder Cup event. It doesn’t have as long a history as the Ryder Cup, the 44th this year, but the first 17 matches (since 1990) in the series—between the best players on the LPGA Tour and their European counterparts—were every bit as spirited as the more recent Ryder Cups.

Europe won the last two Solheim Cups, in 2019 at Gleneagles, in Scotland, and in 2021 at Inverness Club, in Toledo, Ohio. This year’s 18th event is at Finca Cortesin in Andalusia, Spain, from September 22-24. The Solheim, however, is a competition in transition.

Step Change

It was planned as a biennial competition but the global Covid-19 pandemic forced a change. After this year’s event, the 19th Solheim will be in 2024 at the Robert Trent Jones Golf Club, in Gainesville, Va.

The 2024 event will mark the second Solheim Cup to have been played in consecutive years, the first being 2002 and 2003. The even numbered year rotation for the Solheim Cups will return with that staging, making the women’s version opposite the odd numbered years that will be used for the Ryder Cups.

The next scheduled Solheim Cup after that is in 2026 at Bernardus Golf, Netherlands—the site for the Dutch Opens in both 2021 and 2022.

Last Time

The last Solheim Cup, from September 4-6, 2021, turned into the Leona Maguire show at Inverness Club. The Europeans won 15-13 thanks largely to Maguire going 4-0-1 in her matches.

Maguire, who grew up in Ireland and played collegiate golf at Duke, was the first Irish player selected for the Solheim Cup and the nine points she was involved in was a rookie record for both the Solheim and Ryder Cups.

Two points are awarded for matches won and one for matches tied. Maguire won her singles match and three of her four matches with partners. In three of those she was partnered with Mel Reid of England. They were winners twice and halved in their other match together.

Despite the Europeans’ recent success, the U.S. leads the Solheim Cup series 10-7.

Team Captains

While the players competing for each team in Spain won’t be determined until the qualifying periods end in August, there will be some changes to the team captains. Spain got the win in 2021 with Catriona Matthew directing the team. Pat Hurst captained the Americans.

This year the opposing captains will be Stacy Lewis for the U.S. and Suzann Pettersen for Europe.

Player Selection

Player selection point systems are also being altered. The old point system will be in effect for this year’s American team. Players receive selection points for finishing in the top 20 in LPGA tournaments. The points are doubled for finishes in the major championships and are increased 50 percent in the 2023 major championships because it’s a Solheim Cup year.

Seven players will earn spots on the American team off the LPGA point standings at the end of the qualifying period. Two more will be chosen off the Women’s World Rankings and three will be captain’s picks.

The European team has a slightly different system. The top two on the Ladies European Tour point system at the end of the qualifying period make the team, then six more come off the Women’s World Rankings. The other four will be captain’s picks.

In 2024, players in the top 40 in regular season LPGA events will earn Solheim Cup points. Points started accruing for 2024 at January’s Hilton Grand Vacation Tournament of Champions in Florida, an event won by Canadian Brooke Henderson.

Backstory

The Solheim Cup got its start in 1990 as the brainchild of the then LPGA Commissioner Bill Blue. and Gregg Shimanski, LPGA Vice President of business affairs. They convinced club manufacturer Karsten Solheim to become the founding sponsor of the event. His Karsten Manufacturing Corporation (famous for its PING golf clubs) was then sponsoring four regionally different LPGA tournaments.

The first Solheim Cup took place 10 months after the initial announcement of the event. Florida’s Lake Nona was the host venue. Each team had nine players, Pat Bradley hit the first tee shot and Kathy Whitworth captained the U.S. team to an 11 ½- 4 ½ victory.

That was a refreshing change for the Americans, since the men had not won a Ryder Cup since 1983, and the women’s rousing celebration afterwards made the cover of Golfweek magazine. The Solheim Cup was off and running!

Europe won the next meeting (1992) in Scotland 11 ½ to 6 ½ and the matches haven’t been as one-sided since. Today there are 12 players per side, and there is also a Junior Solheim Cup, for amateurs 18 and under, which has been part of the festivities since 2002. Indeed, the Solheim Cup has arrived as one of golf’s premier team events. 

CAPTAINS’ PROFILES

Team USA

Stacy Lewis (b. 1985, Toledo, OH) has one of the most successful careers in women’s professional golf, including 13 LPGA victories, two majors (the Kraft Nabisco Championship in 2011 and the Women’s British Open in 2013), two visits to World No.1, two Vare Trophies, two Player of the Year titles, an Olympic appearance, four Solheim Cup appearances, and the title of both assistant and two-time head Solheim Cup captain. In 2012, Lewis won four tournaments, and became the first American player to win the LPGA Player of the Year award since Beth Daniel in 1994.

Team EUROPE

In her 19-year professional career, Suzann “Tutta” Pettersen (b. 1981, Oslo, Norway) won 15 times on the LPGA Tour and 7 times on the Ladies European Tour including two major championships: the 2007 LPGA Championship and the 2013 Evian Championship. She also had runner-up finishes in the U.S. Women’s Open, the Women’s British Open, and the ANA Inspiration. Her career best world ranking was second and she held that position several times, latterly from August 2011 until February 2012. Pettersen retired on 15 September 2019 after making the winning putt for the European team at the 2019 Solheim Cup.

This was first published in Essential Golf – you can read the complete magazine here.