Daniel, a Hall of Famer, orchestrated a memorable week filled with colorful moments that reminded golf fans whats right about womens golf. That was no easy task with so much focus this season on whats wrong with the LPGA. For a riveting week, the Solheim Cup steered attention away from leadership woes and title sponsorship problems and gave the tour some positive momentum.
Golf fans responded to the high level of play over three days at Rich Harvest Farms in Sugar Grove, Ill.
The LPGA reported record attendance, with the crowd estimates of 120,000 for the week surpassing the previous mark of 103,000 at Crooked Stick four years ago. The tour also reported record merchandise sales.
Senior writer Randall Mell caught up with Daniel for a quick round:
So do you get to go to the White House to celebrate the victory with President Obama?
Ive heard a few rumblings that we do have an invite to see President Obama, which would be pretty cool. One of the benefits is that we all get to come back together and reminisce about what happened.
What was best part of the week for you?
Everybody kept saying we were such favorites, that they never heard of several of Europes players. The Europeans came over, and they proved what great players they are. I think it just kind of showed that there is so much more to womens golf than what people care to see. Womens golf is very deep all over the world, including Europe. Just because players are more comfortable at home and dont choose to play in the United States doesnt mean they arent great players. That was the most gratifying thing.
Given the level of play, do you think talk of expanding the Solheim Cup to include more of the world has been squashed?
Even though the score seems lopsided, 16-12, it was much closer than that. It could have gone either way on Sunday. Our players dug deep and made a couple of key putts when they needed to make them. Its a great competition, it really is, and I think if you make it bigger, and include the whole world, you lose a little bit of the intimacy.
What got into Michelle Wie?
Im so proud of her. She gave us everything she had that week. When (assistant captains) Kelly Robbins and Meg Mallon and I picked her, we knew she was a great player, a great match player, that we had to pick her, but there was always the unknown with her. How much will she get into this team competition? Starting with the practice rounds after the British Open, she was 100 percent into it, and 100 percent into what she needed to do to help the team. She was phenomenal. She said that was the best golf shes played in her career, and I think it might be.
Juli Inkster believes Wie will win before the year is out? What do you think?
I told Michelle on Monday morning, before she flew out, just to carry this emotion with her, carry this love for the game into the rest of the year and shell be just fine. I think thats something thats been lacking from her over the last couple years. In 07, I was paired with her at the British Open at St. Andrews and she just did not want to play at that point in time. She had so much fun at the Solheim Cup; she enjoyed the week so much. She was under a lot of pressure and responded every single time. If she can carry that out as an individual, she will be fine, and I do see her winning.
Tell us something about Paula Creamer we may not know?
This is now Paulas team. It is. Paula is the Solheim Cup for the United States. She is the leader, and the players all look to her. She transforms that week. She kind of keeps to herself during the year. Even me, knowing her, when I see her at LPGA events, she sometimes doesnt open up to me. As soon as she steps foot at the Solheim Cup, she transforms into this person who is truly the team leader. She deserves a ton of credit. They all look to her: What are we going to do? What is the team going to be like? Shes the one. I think it became Paulas team after Crooked Stick (in 2005). There were a lot of veterans starting to wind down their careers. We werent going to play Solheim Cup anymore. Crooked Stick was a mix of veteran and younger players. It was Paulas rookie year. In Sweden (in 07), she was such a leader by example, and she did the exact same thing in Chicago. In my mind it is Paula Creamers team from here on out, as long as she wants it to be.
What is it about Paula? The combination of skill and the respect she commands?
Yes. She leads by example. Its why we put her out No. 1 in singles on Sunday. I said to Meg and Kelly, this is Paulas baby. This Solheim Cup is hers, and its her responsibility to go out first, but I know Paula can handle it. She had a very tough match with Suzann Pettersen, and she ended up pulling that out. As the captain, you know you can always count on her. I counted on her, and she came through.
Christina Kims been criticized for questionable sportsmanship with her crowd interaction. What do you think?
That is Christina. If you go back and look at the tapes at Crooked Stick, she did the exact same things. Meg and I sat her down early last week, and we told her to kind of tone it down. She just cant do it. Thats her. People say shes being unsportsmanlike, but if you look closely at the tapes, she celebrates when she does something, and she gets the crowd into it, but as soon as it is the other players turn to hit, she quiets the crowd. She is never standing near their line, shes off to the fringe of the green. She gives them the stage. She doesnt have an unsportsmanlike bone in her body. Thats truly her spirit coming out. Shes very comfortable with who she is and has no problems with that. Thats Christina Kim.
Did the European team complain to you?
The Europeans werent happy, and I wouldnt have been happy, either. But the thing is, if Christina was playing poorly, she wouldnt have been able to get the crowd fired up. She played well. I know they werent happy about it, they werent happy about it at all. Thats the thing about match play, things like that happen, and its unfortunate. People take it personally. Christina doesnt have an unsportsmanlike bone in her body. Thats 100 percent who Christina Kim is. She never changes. The people who see her on a day-to-day basis know shes like that when she is in contention at LPGA tournaments. I tried to emphasize to my players early in the week, its all part of match play. Gamesmanship is part of match play. Dont let it get to you. Dont even look at them. Its one of the things you try to teach in match play. I tell you what, the crowd was loud and very much in our favor, but the crowd was also polite. When the Europeans hit good shots, they applauded as well.
What did Beth Daniel uniquely contribute as captain?
I think every team gets a bit of their captains personality, and I think thats why some players have a better experience with some captains than others. Whether they wanted it or not, they were going to get some of my personality, and they got that. What I wanted is for them to have fun, win or lose, to have great memories of the week, and I think I definitely accomplished that.
For you, what was the weeks biggest surprise?
To me it was how well they played that golf course. It was a really difficult golf course, and I saw great shot after great shot. Not that I didnt have faith in them as great players, but I thought the golf course was going to give them more trouble than it did. It was amazing how well they played under that kind of pressure.
Rich Harvest Farms got some criticism as a venue. What did you think of the course?
I said all along I thought it would be a great venue for match play. I would hate to tee it up and have to count my ball every shot, but I think for match play it worked out well. I have read a lot of things about the golf course that have not been positive, which is unfortunate. Every golf course has its holes that people dont like, or they debate over, this golf course definitely has that, but, personally, I think its a better golf course than some of the other venues weve played the Solheim Cup or even the U.S. Open. Every course can be debated, and no course is going to be perfect. The bottom line is that you have to figure out how to play it.
So tell us about the dinner and movie date with Justin Timberlake that the team is eager to collect.
I asked the Golf Channel if they could get Justin Timberlake to wish us good luck on camera. Brandel Chamblee got him. The team adores Justin Timberlake. We kept it as a secret the whole time. Ive had this clip since before the McDonalds LPGA Championship. We put it into a video with other well wishes, from some PGA Tour players, Tim Finchem as well. Justin Timberlake told us to Bring home the cup, and if you do, Ill take you out to dinner and a movie. The players all went berserk. I showed it Thursday night right before Opening Ceremonies. Well see how that works out.
Whats next for Beth Daniel?
Im doing TV work at the P&G Beauty Northwest Arkansas Championship in two weeks, and a few of us are going to the Presidents Cup to watch and have fun. Thats about it for now.
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