Solheim Fever Descends on Sweden


The people of Sweden are working themselves into a frenzy. Players on both teams are nervous, yet theyre ready to play. Captains Patty Sheehan of the United States and Catrin Nilsmark of Europe are preparing for the first match. Its time for the playing of the Solheim Cup, the biennual matches pitting the best women of the U.S. against the most successful women of Europe.
Ask European team member Annika Sorenstam, the No. 1 player in the world and a native of Sweden. Sweden is the host of this years celebration of womens golf Sept. 12-14.
Theyre excited, she said of her fellow Swedes, and Im excited.
Its going to be a great event for many reasons. Its the first time we can really showcase Sweden, its such a big event. I know theyve sold something like 80,000 tickets. So, Im expecting that the whole country will be there, and I hope the golf will be as good as the tournament.
American Juli Inkster admits the butterflies have started working on her psyche. But she wouldnt want to be anyplace else.
You work two years to get here, and then you wonder why you do it, because its so nerve-wracking, she confessed.
But its a lot of fun. Weve got a great team. Its going to be a great challenge, but its going to be a lot of fun.
In addition to Inkster, the American team will include Beth Daniel, Laura Diaz, Rosie Jones, Cristie Kerr, Meg Mallon, Michele Redman, Kelly Robbins, Angela Stanford and Wendy Ward. Heather Bowie and Kelli Kuehne complete the 12-person team as captain Sheehan's two captain's picks.
Europe will counter with Sorenstam and fellow Swede Sophie Gustafson, Germany's Elisabeth Esterl, Iben Tinning of Denmark, Ana B. Sanchez of Spain, Scotland's Mhairi McKay and England's Laura Davies. Nilsmark selected as her captains picks Patricia Meunier-Lebouc of France, Norway's Suzann Pettersen, Sweden's Carin Koch, and Scotlands Catriona Matthew and Janice Moodie.
'This is a fun time for me,' said Sheehan after she announced her team. 'I have a couple of young players as picks, and we have such depth on our team, such experience and so many great players that I felt that it would be great to have some young new blood and enthusiasm coming from the younger players to sort of inject some adrenaline in our team.
Sheehans picks of Bowie (28) and Kuehne (26) represent the youth that she wants to impart to her team. The veteran leadership will come from Daniel (seven appearances), Mallon (six), Jones and Robbins (five) and Inkster (four appearances).
The 2003 U.S. team will include two rookies to the event: Stanford, who is three-year tour veteran, and Bowie, who is in her fourth year on tour.
Sheehan believes it is one of the strongest teams in Solheim Cup history. Why?
Because we have a lot of experience and the younger players that I have, the rookies are all very strong and confident players and every single one of them has a lot of great match play history, she said. Match play records. Kelli Kuehne probably has one of the best for a rookie. Cristie Kerr is, she's unbelievable. Cristie Kerr has done something that not many people can do. And that is transform herself.
Davies has played in all seven previous Solheim Cups for Europe. Sorenstam has appeared in five. The remainder of the Europeans are one- or two-time competitors with a scattering of first-timers.
Laura has always loved the Solheim Cup, Sheehan said. She really is the heart and sole I think of the European team and so she's getting ready. She's putting her game face on.
Koch, who has missed significant time this season after giving birth to her second child, is an impressive 7-0-1 and was unblemmished in 2002 until halving the final match on the course on Sunday against Daniel.
'The Solheim Cup is probably the showcase event for all of women's golf in the world,' said Sheehan. 'We know that and the players always rise to the occasion and always play incredible exciting golf.
I look forward to the experiences being The Solheim Cup captain for the American side. I have been through it once. It was the most wonderful experience being a winning captain. And I look forward to bringing the Cup home.'
Qualifying points for the U.S. team were awarded weekly to the top-10 finishers and ties at official LPGA tournaments. Points were doubled at the four major championships every year. The LPGA's four major tournaments are the Kraft Nabisco Championship, McDonald's LPGA Championship Presented by AIG, U.S. Women's Open and the Weetabix Women's British Open.
The Solheim Cup will be televised by The Golf Channel in the United States. The Golf Channel will televise at least 27 hours of live golf during this year's Solheim Cup, plus both the opening and closing ceremonies and a 30-minute wrap-up show after the first two days of competition. In addition, The Golf Channel will re-air in primetime three hours of the most compelling portions from each day's competition.
It will be a lifetime experience for the women, says Sheehan.
The Solheim Cup experience is none other than extraordinary for these players. They spend two years trying to get on the team and it is unbelievable, the pressure that they will be under for those matches at the Solheim Cup. (The matches) will be more than they have ever experienced before. And the rookies have no idea how unbelievable this is going to be for them.