2021 Solheim Cup
Inverness Club | Toledo, Ohio | Sept. 4-6, 2021
DANIELLE KANG RETURNS TO SCENE OF 2021 VICTORY
Just over one year ago, the LPGA Tour came to Inverness Club during a very different time in its history. With the world reeling from the COVID-19 pandemic, the club hosted the 2020 Drive On Championship, the Tour’s return to competition after a 166-day absence. Danielle Kang emerged the victor, capturing a one-stroke win over Celine Boutier for the first of back-to-back wins in Toledo. She has nothing but rave about her return to Inverness, one of the most renowned tracks in the country.
“It was softer last year and the greens were still fast, but any time we come here, even when we got here for the team practice, the golf course was still in really great shape,” said Kang. “Hats off to those that keep this golf course up to absolute birdie level.”
With no fans or structures on site in 2020, the Inverness footprint was markedly different from this week’s Solheim Cup. The massive grandstand that surrounds the first and 10th tees seats 3,000 fans. The Meijer Pavilion, with views of more than half the golf course, accommodates 6,000. And more than 100,000 fans are expected to pass through the gates to see Kang and her American compatriots work to take back the Solheim Cup that they lost to Team Europe in 2019.
Kang is certainly up for the challenge and thrives on the energy. In her 2017 debut for Team USA in Iowa, she pumped up the crowd before every tee shot, calling for the music to be louder and the fans to be rowdier. She’s ready to head to the first tee on Saturday, ready to represent the Red, White and Blue and do whatever she can to get that crystal trophy back in American custody.
“The energy that the spectators have brought are incredible. Even today, we were just walking to the first tee and I was waving through the crowd and they were all shouting already, and it’s Thursday,” she said. “I’m just really excited to see how many people are going to (have) the fairways filled up. If I recall Des Moines, I just saw red everywhere. I remember the flags being red, and I couldn’t see where the flags were because the background was red. I can’t wait to see that again and people chanting U-S-A.
“Any time that we can represent our country is just such an honor. It’s a sporting event where we can all come together and just work for one goal. I’m just really excited.”
JENNIFER KUPCHO DOES NOT SHY AWAY FROM BIG MOMENTS
Within a week, Jennifer Kupcho will have said yes to her long-time boyfriend Jay Monahan’s proposal and hit her maiden shot in a Solheim Cup. A pair of life-changing moments, the latest nervy experiences, which Kupcho does not shy away from.
“We actually went and picked out the ring together, so I knew it was coming,” said Kupcho. “He wanted to make sure I really loved it. It was cool to do it together.
“He took me to a really fancy, nice restaurant [in Scottsdale called The Capital Grille]. The ring came out on the plate with dessert and on the plate it said, ‘Will you marry me?’ It was really cute. We first met at Superstition Mountain [Golf and Country Club] in Arizona. He worked there. I was a member. We have been together for a year and a half.”
Even though you know it’s coming, as Kupcho did when she helped her boyfriend select an engagement ring, nothing prepares you for the moment when he pops the question. And even though you know it’s coming, just as Kupcho did when she qualified for Team USA last month, nothing prepares you for the enormity of the first shot you will strike as a rookie in the Solheim Cup.
Her finishes on the LPGA Tour may help Kupcho settle in after the initial jitters, but the environment will be a unique shock to the weekly stroke-play grind she has become accustomed to.
“I’m really excited, definitely overwhelmed. The entire experience has been really special,” Kupcho said. “These girls have made me feel very comfortable, as well as [Assistant Captain] Angela [Stanford], just to get me comfortable and ready for what’s about to come. I know it’s going to get more overwhelming, so just need to keep reminding myself to slow down and relax.”
Her pod with Austin Ernst, Danielle Kang and Lizette Salas, led by Stanford, has provided a boost to the Wake Forest University alumna. It has also showcased her potential of how she can contribute to Team USA now and for years to come.
“I think Jennifer has played on the big stage, playing at Augusta National and winning that [Women’s Amateur] event,” said Stanford. “This is the biggest, but she is very focused. Her demeanor gives the feel like she’s not a rookie, so I think she’ll be great.
“She’s very organized, focused on what she wants to do. A lot of times you don’t see that in rookies. A lot of times, rookies are looking around and checking things out, but she has been very good about focus. I have to remind myself that she is a rookie because she hasn’t acted like one.”
LEONA MAGUIRE NO ORDINARY ROOKIE
She has not finished outside the top 15 in her last seven starts on the LPGA Tour. For Leona Maguire, that includes a career-best finish in a major, a tie for sixth at the Amundi Evian Championship in July. Throw in a multitude of team appearances as an amateur between the Curtis Cup, Junior Solheim Cup, Espirito Santo Trophy, Junior Ryder Cup and Vagliano Trophy, and Maguire doesn’t seem like an ordinary Solheim Cup rookie.
“This is something I’ve looked forward to for a long time,” said Maguire, a 2019 Symetra Tour graduate. “Got a little glimpse of it when I played Junior Solheims and really good to be part of the big team now. I think there will be a lot of good memories this week. Hopefully some will be on the golf course. But I think a lot of them will be off the golf course, too.”
Twice a member of the victorious Great Britain and Ireland team for the Curtis Cup (2012, 2016), the 2017 British Open Amateur Championship winner and a 10-time medalist for Duke University, Maguire has a plethora of meaningful match-play experience. That also includes seven collegiate tournaments — three NCAA Championships among them — with a combined 6-6-1 record for the Blue Devils.
It’s a resume that has captured the attention of Team Europe veteran Mel Reid, and one she witnessed in person at Inverness Club during Thursday’s practice rounds.
“I played with Leona today. Fantastic player. Honestly haven’t spent much time with her,” said Reid, a four-time member of Team Europe in the Solheim Cup. “You know what Tour life is like. If you don’t get paired with them, you can kind of miss people. I’ve been keeping an eye on Leona because she had a fantastic amateur career. She has obviously progressed as we all expected and played fantastic golf this year. She’s a great player.
“The [four Team Europe] rookies are fearless. They’re not like rookies when I first played Solheim Cups that were just playing the Ladies European Tour. Not discrediting that at all, but [now] they are playing against the American girls week in and week out, and they’re just not scared. That’s what you want.”
Making her first Solheim Cup team is one thing, and to add to it, Maguire is the first woman from Ireland to land a spot on Team Europe for the biennial team competition.
“A huge honor,” Maguire said. “I think it’s something I’ll probably not dwell on too much right now, but will look back in 20, 30 years when I’m done playing and realize how special it was.
“Hopefully inspires more young girls in Ireland to take up the game, realize if they believe in themselves and work hard that anything is possible. Hopefully we’ll have many, many more Irish girls on the team in the future.”
PEDERSEN, KOERSTZ MADSEN MAKE DANISH HISTORY
2021 marks a historic first for Danish golf, with Emily Pedersen and Nanna Koerstz Madsen becoming the first Danes to compete on the same Solheim Cup team. The duo joins four-time European Team member Iben Tinning as the only three Danes to represent their country in the elite competition.
“It shows that the Danish Golf Federation and especially the girls are doing super well,” said Pedersen, who made her Solheim Cup debut in 2017. “I think it’s something to be proud of in Denmark, and I’m proud. I’m sure Nanna is proud, as well, to be here and represent the red and white.”
Pedersen and Koerstz Madsen both come to Toledo looking for redemption, albeit for different reasons. Four years ago, Pedersen went 0-3-0 at the Solheim Cup in Des Moines, an experience that she admits sent her into a career spiral and out of the LPGA Tour. Now a multiple winner on the Ladies European Tour and the 2020 LET Order of Merit winner, Pedersen says she’s in a much better place, both professionally and personally.
“I think I’m a lot more mature now than I was four years ago. I think obviously I’ve grown from going through a bit of a tough time after the last Solheim,” said Pedersen. “I think I’m more assured of myself, more confident in myself. I feel like I’ve also played some better golf than I had before the last Solheim. I’ve had four wins since then.”
Just two weeks ago, Koerstz Madsen went to the 72nd hole of the AIG Women’s Open with a chance to win her first major, but instead settled for a tie for fifth after a disastrous bunker shot left her with a closing double bogey. The same day, she was named to her first Solheim Cup team, a quick balm to that major disappointment.
“I’m most looking forward to the first tee and seeing how the crowd is going to be. Just today it was really cool with the music and some people there. So that’s what I’m looking most forward to,” said Koerstz Madsen. “I know it’s going to be exciting to play out there. I’m probably going to be a little nervous, which everyone else is going to be, so I just hope I can cope with those emotions, which I’m sure I will.
2021 SOLHEIM CUP BY THE NUMBERS
The 17th edition of the Solheim Cup begins on Saturday at the famed Inverness Club in Toledo, Ohio. Originally designed by Donald Ross, the championship course features sloped and elevated greens with undulation that will test the top players from the United States and Europe as they each compete for their country. The team match-play competition includes eight foursome, eight four-ball and 12 singles matches.
For the first time in the history of the event, the first-tee atmosphere will also encompass the 10th tee box as teams make the turn for the back nine. The first two American qualifiers, Nelly Korda and Danielle Kang, each clinched a spot earlier this summer, with Ally Ewing joining the U.S. team two weeks ago. Team rosters were completed after the AIG Women’s Open following a two-year performance period. With the excitement building this week, here’s a look at the teams and history of the Solheim Cup.
The U.S. team includes three rookies for the seventh time, which ranks as the most popular number of rookies for the team. In the previous six instances with three rookies, the U.S. team has won the Solheim Cup four times (1996, 2005, 2009, 2017) and lost twice (2000, 2011). At age 31, Mina Harigae is the oldest American rookie since Becky Iverson in 2000, who was 32 when she appeared in the Solheim Cup contested at Loch Lomond Golf Club in Scotland.
Anna Nordqvist made her debut in the Solheim Cup at age 22 in 2009 and was the youngest European rookie since Suzann Pettersen first took the stage in 2002 at age 21. Nordqvist leads the European team into Inverness Club on the heels of her third LPGA Tour major win at the 2021 AIG Women’s Open.
In Solheim Cup history, the average number of holes played is 16 with 80% of the matches ending on the closing holes (16, 17 or 18). When the United States has hosted, that number increases slightly to 80.39% with holes 11-15 determining a total of 40 matches (20%). No foursome or four-ball match in the history of the event has been decided before No. 13. The 18th hole remains the most pivotal hole on the course, as was the case in 2019 when Suzann Pettersen made a 7-foot birdie putt on the 18th green to secure the winning point for Europe.
Saturday, Sept. 4
Foursomes – 7:35-8:11 a.m.
Fourball – 12:35-1:20 p.m.
Sunday, Sept. 5
Foursomes – 7:15-7:51 a.m.
Fourball – 12:05-12:50 p.m.
Monday, Sept. 6
Singles – 12:05-1:55 p.m.
TV TIMES (all times Eastern)
Sept. 4 – 7:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., Golf Channel; 12:30-2:30 p.m., NBC; 2:30-6 p.m., Golf Channel
Sept. 5 – 7 a.m. to 12 p.m., Golf Channel; 12-1:30 p.m., NBC; 1:30-5:30, Golf Channel
Sept. 6 – 12-6 p.m., Golf Channel
WHITELINE PAR AND YARDAGE
36-36–72, 6,903 yards (par and yardage are subject to change through the start of the competition)
COURTESY LPGA TOUR