The Solheim Cup and Beyond


First this: The Solheim Cup, by my lights, is as good as it gets in womens golf. In the context of teamwork in the best sense, it features raw emotion, layered tension, high drama, exposed nerves and shameless boosterism. And it celebrates the talents of the best American-born and European-born women in the world.
This years edition begins Friday in Sweden (on The Golf Channel). Ignore it at your own peril. The American women have won five of the seven previous Solheim Cups. The European women won the last time the event was staged on their own soil.
Now this: Karrie Webb. Rachel Teske. Se Ri Pak. Grace Park. Candie Kung. Hee-Won Han. Lorena Ochoa. Lorie Kane.
None of these women will ever play in a Solheim Cup. Unless they change the rules. Mens golf, at its highest professional level, has the Presidents Cup. That allows International players like Vijay Singh, Mike Weir, Ernie Els, Retief Goosen (to name a few) to play in a 12-person team Cup competition every other year.
Is this something the women need? Or would a Presidents Cup facsimile for women dilute the impact of the roaring success the Solheim Cup has turned out to be in its relatively short history?
The short answer is, yes, we want these international women to have a chance to play in a Cup situation, said LPGA commissioner Ty Votaw. But you can make the argument that the Presidents Cup has taken away from the Ryder Cup. We dont want to take anything away from the Solheim Cup.
Its just hard to ignore the fact that the Australian-born Webb won Sunday in Tulsa or that the Taiwanese-born Kung captured the two LPGA events prior to that. Or that the Korean-born Pak had won as many majors as Swedish-born Annika Sorenstam going into this year. Or that the Mexican-born Ochoa is probably the best female golfer under the age of 25 in the world.
Nobody is more aware of this than Votaw, who will be in Sweden for this weeks matches. But there are roadblocks. It would be difficult to put that much effort into a non-purse event every year, he said.
Votaw and the LPGA want to do right by the International women of the LPGA. And one suggestion'a round robin Solheim Cup that would incorporate the Internationals into a three-team rotation'has been considered. But the scheduling uncertainty of not knowing which two teams would be in the event until 12 months prior to the staging presents huge logistical barriers.
Weve talked about the revival of a womens World Cup, Votaw said. But that would entail a format limited to a two-person teams. One of the strengths of the Ryder, Solheim and Presidents Cups is the excitement generated by 12 players all pulling for each other.
Weve thought a lot about all these things, Votaw said. The long and short of this is as our player base expands, we will have to figure out some type of competition (that incorporates the Internationals) somewhere down the road.
One other possibility is the Olympics. Votaw has been in contact with golfs major governing bodies and he doesnt see the Olympics getting into golf until 2012 at the earliest. Thats nine years down the road.
Part of the problem there, he says, is the tremendously strong lobby emanating from baseball and softball to protect those sports from Olympic extinction in an Olympic climate where officials are looking to reduce, not expand, the number of sports.
Compared to baseball and softball, Votaw says, golf is truly international. But golf in the Olympics, Votaw points out, means something would have to give in an already crowded summer golf schedule.
Meanwhile back at the Solheim Cup, it is important to note that once the matches start nobody will be pondering the future Cup fate of the Internationals.
But if the right solution is ever arrived at, womens Cup matches could conceivably enjoy their excitement annually rather than every other year.
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