OWINGS MILLS, Md. – The difference between the inaugural International Crown and the potential staging of a women’s version of the Presidents Cup was clear on the first tee Thursday at Caves Valley Golf Club.
With the eight nations marching in carrying their country’s flags, with the playing of national anthems before each match, there was a powerful sense of meaningful identity at the International Crown that a Presidents Cup style event can’t match trying to unite diverse countries under an International flag. It's exactly the dynamic LPGA commissioner Mike Whan wanted to create, and it's making all the difference early here.
Yes, the International Crown didn’t start with the fan frenzy we’ve become accustomed to on the first tee at the Solheim Cup, where creative singing and chanting rivals the Ryder Cup, but the events ought not to be too vigorously compared. There’s compelling national passion within the team ranks in this first International Crown that is fueling all eight of these teams.
You could see it in the face of Inbee Park and her South Korean teammates during their national anthem, in the face of Hall of Famer Karrie Webb playing for Australia for the first time as a professional in a team event and in the face of Yani Tseng, who couldn’t stop smiling listening to the Chinese Taipei national anthem.
The bleachers weren’t full when Thailand and Spain started the matches Thursday, but they were nearly full when the Americans stepped into the “arena” for the final two tee times. There was a healthy gallery lined up along the ropes all the way down the right side of the first fairway, the only side open to fans.
No, it isn’t the Solheim Cup, but given some drama this first week and time to build its own tradition, LPGA officials see the seeds of an event that could eventually rival the Solheim Cup in popularity.