by Nancy Berkley

September 18th through Sunday, September 20th, golfers in the US and Europe should be watching the biennial women’s Solheim Cup competition.  The event will be played at the St. Leon-Rot Golf Club in Germany – not far from Mannheim and Heidelberg.  This is the first time that Germany has hosted the Solheim Cup.  With SAP as one of its major sponsors and a major SAP facility nearby, the event promises to have the best technology reporting system that golf fans have ever seen.

The Solheim Cup – often likened to the men’s Ryder Cup Matches – is not your usual weekend LPGA Tour or LET (Ladies European Tour) event.  The format is different, the scoreboard looks different and announcers in the TV booth use words and phrases that many golfers are not familiar with.  So, here’s a short primer on what you need to know to enjoy this amazing display of competitive talent among some of the best female golfers in the world.  Don’t miss it.

Q. When did the Solheim Cup begin and how did it get its name?

A. The first Solheim Cup was held in 1990 and played at Lake Nona Golf & Country Club in Orlando, Florida. The Solheim Cup competition is named in honor of the late Karsten Solheim, the founder of the Karsten Manufacturing Corporation, which makes PING golf equipment. John A. Solheim, his son and current Chairman and CEO of PING, is pictured with the 2015 Solheim Captains in the photo at the top of this page. 

The 1990 US Solheim Cup Team. Do you recognize Nancy Lopez who was Kathy Whitworth's "Captains Pick" for the first Solheim Cup? (third from left)
The 1990 US Solheim Cup Team. Do you recognize Nancy Lopez who was Kathy Whitworth’s “Captains Pick” for the first Solheim Cup? (third from left)

The Solheim Cup is often referred to as the women’s Ryder Cup because they both use a “match play” format with two-player teams except on the final day of singles matches. For more about match play, see my previous article on womensgolf.com.

Q. What makes the Solheim Cup so special?

A. In its simplest terms, the contest is between the twelve “best” players on the LPGA Tour playing against the twelve “best” players on the Ladies European Tour – it’s Team USA vs. Team Europe.

The LPGA and LET Tours have already selected the Captains of their respective Team. Juli Inkster is Team USA Captain and Carin Koch is Team Europe Captain. The Captains in turn select their assistant co-captains.

The Solheim is front-loaded with strategic decisions that the Captains have to make. Since sixteen of the 28 matches are two-player USA teams against two player Europe teams, the Captains have many factors to consider in deciding the pairings – including not wearing out a player with too many matches.

The Captain’s challenge is to put two players together who complement each other on several dimensions. The pairing decisions are made based on the players’ personalities as well as their skills. One player may be great off the tee while her partner’s strength is on the green. One player may work well on adrenalin while her partner needs to stay calm.

Course St. Leon - Venue for the 2015 Solheim Cup
Course St. Leon – Venue for the 2015 Solheim Cup

Much of the commentary about the matches, in fact, will be about which players the Captains select for the 28 matches. And the final twist: Captains do not know the player selections that the other Captain has made prior to the match. That’s another element of strategy. Visit www.solheimcup.com for more details about the tournament.

Q. How are players selected for the Solheim Cup teams?

A. First, the members on Team USA members must be born in the United States (or naturalized by age 18 or became a U.S. citizen by adoption) and be a member of the LPGA Tour. Similarly, Team Europe members must be born in Europe (or hold a passport of a European country or have become a naturalized citizen of a European country) and must be a member of the Ladies European Tour (the LET) with a specified performance record.

Many women competing against each other in the Solheim Cup are actually friends who compete regularly against each other on the LPGA and LET Tours. The “team” aspect of the Solheim Cup combined with the “match-play” format (more about that below) combined with “playing for your country” creates tension and drama not regularly seen in women’s golf competition.

Players for the 12-women Solheim Cup teams are selected for the most part based on how well they have played during the season. Both teams use a performance point system plus Rolex Rankings.

Team Europe uses tournament points to select four of the twelve players and Rolex Rankings for four more. The remaining four are selected by the Team Europe Captain and are called the “Captain’s Picks.

Team USA selects eight members based on the seasons performance points and two members based on Rolex Rankings, leaving Team USA Captain Juli Inkster with only two “Captain’s Picks.” There is quite a bit of discussion going on now about who will be the Captain’s Picks.

In my opinion, I think Team Europe has a slight advantage from having four Captain’s Picks. Carin Koch, Team Europe Captain, might recognize that a player who did not play so well during the season is now hitting her stride and thinks she would be great on the team. Plus, some players are just natural “team” players and leaders who can reach in their gut at just the critical point and make those birdie putts.

Q. Who will be playing in this year’s Solheim Cup?

A:  (Updated) SOLHEIM CUP TEAMS CONFIRMED as of August 25, 2015:

TEAM USA:
Stacy Lewis, Lexi Thompson, Cristie Kerr, Michelle Wie, Brittany Lincicome, Morgan Pressel, Angela Stanford, Gerina Piller, Alison Lee and Lizette Salas and Captain’s Picks (announced August 24th): Brittany Lang and Paula Creamer.

Lexi Thompson
Lexi Thompson & Stacy Lewis – Team spirit at the 2013 Solheim Cup

TEAM EUROPE: Anna Nordqvist of Sweden, Azahara Munoz of Spain, Sandra Gal of Germany, Carlota Ciganda of Spain, Suzann Pettersen of Norway, Gwladys Nocera of France, Charley Hull of England and Melissa Reid of England and Captain’s Picks (announced August 25th): Catriona Matthew of Scotland, Caroline Hedwall of Sweden, Caroline Masson of Germany and Karine Icher of France.

All four Captain’s Picks were on the 2013 Solheim Team. Team Europe has two players from Germany who can expect lots of cheering from the galleries.

Q. Finally: How is the winner of the Solheim Cup determined?

A. There are 28 different matches played in the three-day tournament. Each match is worth one point – so the team with 14 ½ points at the conclusion is the winner of the Solheim Cup. If a team is tied at the end of eighteen holes, each team receives ½ point. (This scoring is slightly different from most match-play format competitions in which players must continue the play until a player is “one-up.”)

Here’s the 2015 Solheim Cup schedule of matches to be played:

Friday, September 18th – Day 1 morning:
Four alternate-shot matches. (Two players from each team take turns playing — beginning with the tee shot — until the hole is completed. Players drive on alternate holes, regardless of who putted last.)

Friday, September 18th – Day 1 afternoon:
Four better-ball matches. (Also known as better
 ball. Two players from each team play each hole, with the better score of the two players deciding the hole.)

Saturday, September 18th – Day 2 morning:
Four alternate-shot matches.

Saturday, September 18th – Day 2 afternoon:
Four better-ball matches.

Sunday, September 19th: Day 3:
12 singles matches in which all 12 players from each team participate.

TV viewers will usually see a screen that shows who is “up” or “even” for each match and over the three days, there will also be a screen showing the total points for each team.

Suzann Pettersen Team Europe 2013 Solheim Cup
Suzann Pettersen Team Europe 2013 Solheim Cup

 

*Images used with permission of 2015 Solheim Cup (All rights reserved)

Nancy Berkley

Nancy Berkley is an expert on women’s golf and junior-girls golf in the U.S. A special interest of hers is encouraging business women to enjoy golf with colleagues and clients. Nancy is a member of the World Golf Foundation Women’s Committee, and a member of the National Golf Foundation. Nancy is a graduate of the University of Minnesota, Harvard University, Rutgers Law School and has a degree from the Professional Management Program of Harvard Business School.

Describing herself as a good bogey golfer with permanent potential Nancy’s message to women is “Be Happy, Be Healthy, Live Longer, Play Golf.” She shares news about women’s golf – along with her opinions on www.berkleygolfconsulting and www.nancyberkley.com.