WEST DES MOINES, Iowa – On second thought, it is time for the LPGA to form a Solheim Cup task force.
It’s time to bring together the best and brightest minds in the American women’s game to figure out a way to persuade Juli Inkster to captain the United States team for a third consecutive time.
Inkster sounded guardedly open to a possible return when asked after the Americans defeated Europe 16½ to 11½ Sunday, a victory that made Inkster and Judy Rankin the only captains to lead the Americans to victory in back-to-back Solheim Cups, but . . .
“I don’t want to go there,” Inkster said. “I would love to do it, but I think there are other people in line that deserve the chance, but I’ll be there with some hugs.”
Now that’s a problem that needs to be immediately addressed.
No offense to Pat Hurst and Sherri Steinhauer, major champions with winning records in multiple Solheim Cup appearances, logical as potential next ups, but Solheim Cup stock takes a big dive if Inkster doesn’t return.
Dottie Pepper would bring star power, if somehow, some way, she was in consideration, which seems highly doubtful, given the hard criticism she has delivered on this generation of American players, and her insistence that her interests continue to lie elsewhere.
Nancy Lopez would also bring star power, if she’s interested in a return engagement as captain, after being an assistant to Inkster the last two Solheim Cups, a role that has kept Lopez in touch with today’s players, but she isn’t in that line Inkster’s talking about.
Inkster is specially qualified and gifted to keep growing the Solheim Cup’s brand.
Gerina Piller said it Sunday. Inkster’s a “freaking rock star.”
On the Solheim Cup stage, she really is. Inkster’s the total package. She has the record and resume as one of the all-time great American players. She’s smart, tough and personable, with a heavy dose of good humor, traits that work in the team room and the media center. At 57, she’s still an active player, a mother of two grown daughters who connects so powerfully with the age groups playing the Solheim Cup.
The Solheim Cup’s just better with Inkster out front. The American players are better, too, and not just inside the ropes. Inkster’s such a great model of how American players should approach the game.
So, the challenge here is persuading Inkster that the American effort needs her again, the women’s game needs her again.
And that’s the thing: As a Solheim Cup captain, Inkster would sit in a uniquely influential position within women’s golf, a position of potentially expanding influence. She sounded Sunday like she could grow into that expanded role. We heard it with her advocacy of the women’s game, with her outspoken disappointment in the slights she sees women enduring.
“I'm going to say it right now, and I probably shouldn't say it because I already said it, but I just don't understand how all these companies get away with supporting PGA Tour events and not supporting the LPGA,” Inkster said. “It makes me a little upset, because I think we've got a great product. We deserve our due.”
There’s more good that Inkster can do for American women with two more years in a leadership role, a role she could take to yet another level.
Ultimately, this will come down to a vote. The last three Solheim Cup captains, the LPGA commissioner, the LPGA president and the chairman of the LPGA Board of Directors will vote on who will be the next captain.
It seems like a no-brainer, if somebody can convince Inkster she isn’t taking someone else’s turn. That’s the challenge getting her back.