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On & Off the Course

September 18, 2011

ON AND OFF THE COURSE: The Red, White and Blue visits the Isle of Green

TERRE HAUTE — In 2006, the Ryder Cup was held in Ireland at The K Club in County Kildare. It was an emotionally charged event, especially because one of the European team leaders, Darren Clarke, had just lost his wife to cancer. The result? The Europeans gave the Americans a lesson on how to play golf, while giving them a drubbing to the tune of 18 1/2 points to 9 1/2 points. Perhaps hoping to have some of that same “luck of the Irish” success, the Solheim Cup will be held this year at Killeen Castle Golf Resort, in County Meath, Ireland, from Sept. 23-25.

The Solheim Cup is the same format as the Ryder Cup, except it’s the best U.S.-born players from the LPGA tour against the best European members from the Ladies European Tour (LET). It is a three-day event with the first two days featuring two sessions per day, one each of four-ball matches and foursomes, and then 12 singles matches on the last day. Foursomes matches have two player teams hitting alternate shots, with one score recorded for the team. There is some strategy required to figure out which team member should tee off on certain holes in such a way that would best benefit the team, usually trying to get the longer tee-ball hitter to tee off on more of the par 5s, for instance.

Four-ball matches have each player hitting their own ball, and then the best score is used to match up against their opponent. Scoring is based on points, with 28 points available. One point is awarded for each match won, and 1/2 a point for each team if the match ends in a tie. The defending champion, which is the U.S. team, needs 14 points to keep the Solheim Cup, and 14 1/2 points is required for the Europeans to take the cup away.

The European team will be captained by Alison Nicholas of England, with Joanne Morley of England and Annika Sorenstam of Sweden as assistant captains. The LET players making the team on points standings are Melissa Reid (England), Laura Davies (England), Suzann Pettersen (Norway), Christel Boeljon (Netherlands), Maria Hjorth (Sweden), Anna Nordqvist (Sweden), Catriona Matthew (Scottland), and Sophie Gustafson (Sweden). The Europeans get to use 4 captains’ picks for their team, so captain Nicholas chose Azahara Munoz (Spain), Caroline Hedwall (Sweden), Karen Stupples (England), and Sandra Gal (Germany).

The Americans will be lead by Rosie Jones as captain, and Sherri Steinhauer and Juli Inkster as assistant captains. The U.S. players in qualifying order are: Cristie Kerr, Stacy Lewis, Morgan Pressel, Angela Stanford, Paula Creamer, Michelle Wie, Brittany Lincicome, Brittany Lang, Juli Inkster, and Christina Kim. The captains’ picks are Vicky Hurst and Ryann O’Toole. Nine of these players were on the victorious 2009 Solheim Cup team, so I’m sure they’ll be very motivated to retain the cup. Juli Inkster, making the team for the ninth time, has a lot of experience to draw on. At age 51, she will be the oldest player to participate in the Solheim Cup.

Named in honor of Karsten Solheim, founder of Karsten Manufacturing Corp., maker of PING golf equipment, The Solheim Cup matches began in 1990. The matches are held every two years, alternating locations from the U.S. to Europe. The U.S. leads the overall competition 8-3, and owns a perfect record on their home soil. This year’s venue, Killeen Castle Golf Resort, is a Jack Nicklaus design, although having an American designer doesn’t necessarily help the U.S. team. The K Club was designed by Arnold Palmer, and we know how that turned out!

The Jack Nicklaus Signature Course at Killeen Castle is relatively new, it opened it 2009, but it is set amidst surroundings that have a history much, much older!

Killeen Castle is going to be a gorgeous course, so I certainly hope that even though our time will be six or seven hours different than Ireland, that event will be covered on the Golf Channel, either live or tape delayed. Although now that I’ve figured out how to DVR, I can do my own tape-delaying, and I hope you can too!

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