by Keith Hirshland

The 2015 Solheim Cup was, at times, exciting, excruciating, interesting and full of drama. In the end, the US team managed to leave Germany victorious but let’s not forget that the event was a Caroline Masson par putt away from a third straight European win over the best American women golfers in the business. The slimmest of margins, a half a point, separated renewed interest from an unstoppable slide into oblivion for the event. Another European win would have made the international competition a near impossible “sell” two years from now but thanks to Masson’s miss and Gerina Piller’s make (pictured above), American golf fans will, no doubt, again take notice of this great golf weekend when the two teams tee it up in Des Moines, Iowa.

Caroline Masson 2015 Solheim Cup
Caroline Masson

But all of that doesn’t negate the fact that not only this, but all international golf competitions need a cleanse, a closer look, and a fresh approach. To paraphrase William Shakespeare and Marc Antony “I come not to bury The Solheim Cup but to praise it.” It’s a fabulous event, the best and only meaningful multi-continent competition in the women’s game (including the upcoming Olympics) but it needs an overhaul, a redux that would allow it to showcase all of the game’s best. It also needs to be changed because, quite frankly, the American team needs help. Under the current format, only a third (8 of 24) of the world’s best by ranking are eligible to participate. Changing the structure of the teams would allow all of the great players across the globe to have a chance to showcase their skills on this preeminent stage.

Australian golf star Karrie Webb
Karrie Webb

It is a shame, worse a sports sin that Karrie Webb, one of the greatest players of her or for that matter any generation, will never know what it feels like to play for her country and her teammates in a really meaningful event. If the qualifying criteria remain the same that shame will extend to the person many are calling the next great player in golf, Lydia Ko. Is there any one of us that doesn’t want to see Inbee Park, 2015 United States Women’s Open Champion In Gee Chun or Canadian star Brooke Henderson have a chance to play? Why does one side get to draw from an entire continent while the other has to settle for the best from a single country? This is not 1980, let’s open this thing up to make it more fun, more interesting and ultimately more competitive.

Here’s my proposal; Europe adds Korea, Japan, South Africa and China to the team while the good ol’ USA gets Canada, Mexico, South America, Australia and New Zealand. It’s easy to imagine this event with a Brooke Henderson against Shan Shan Feng start to Sunday singles and a Lydia Ko versus Inbee Park anchor match for all the marbles. In between we would not only be treated to Lewis against Pettersen and Wie versus Norquist but we’d also get to watch Karrie and Na Yeon, Minjee and Amy, Lexi and Ai as well. Win/Win.

The next step is to do the same thing with the men and The Ryder Cup. How great would it be to add Matsuyama, Els, Scott, Oosthuizen, Ishikawa and Jason Day to an already potent mix? Both The Ryder Cup and The Solheim Cup would truly be international events involving all of the world’s best players. You play one (The Solheim Cup) in the odd years and the other (The Ryder Cup) in the even ones. That would mean every year golf fans would get ONE fall spectacle, ONE big event to wrap our eyes and our arms around. Of course, I know this means doing away with The International Crown (does anybody even know this event exists now?) and The President’s Cup (does anybody really care that this event exists now?) and what would be wrong with that? Those exhibitions are only on the calendar now because of money and the fact that many of the great players in the world don’t get a chance to participate in the more meaningful ones.

With my proposal they do and, more importantly, golf and golf fans get a much-needed break from watching teams made up entirely of players from one country struggle to maintain a level of interest to make the “afterthought” international competitions compelling.

Lexi Thompson 2015 Solheim Cup
Lexi Thompson

So, again, with apologies to the Bard, let’s bury The President’s Cup and The International Crown and heap lavish amounts of praise on The Solheim Cup and The Ryder Cup. Let all of the best players participate and give us all a reason to watch and really care, ONCE a year.

*Photo Credits: Solheim Cup images with permission from www.solheimcup.de media. Karrie Webb photo courtesy of Keith Allison via Creative Commons Licence.

keith hirshland
Cover Me Boys by Kieth Hirshland
Cover Me Boys by Kieth Hirshland

Keith Hirshland’s experience has taken him all across the country, covering sport’s most famous athletes and television’s most interesting and charismatic personalities. Having worked at both the local affiliate and national network levels, Hirshland was on hand for the beginning stages of ESPN2 and one of the first forty people hired at the Golf Channel when the world’s first niche sports channel began its preparations in 1994. For years, he was part of the production team for golf’s nationally televised Skins Game. Hirshland has worked alongside sports television’s most iconic figures and his book ‘Cover Me Boys‘ features great behind-the-scenes stories from more than 30 years in the sports broadcasting business.

5 COMMENTS

  1. Hirshland makes some good points, but having the United States “adopt” Karrie Webb and Lydia Ko and Brooke Henderson won’t do anything except change the fundamental appeal of the Solheim Cup. Does Mr Hirshland have a problem with the International Crown and the Queens Cup? Both events are grounded in golf’s global scope and both are new and could benefit from broader promotion and support. What brand of jingoism is driving Hirshland’s assumption that all international match play/team events other than the Solheim Cup and the Ryder Cup aren’t “meaningful”? What constitutes “meaningful” in Mr. Hirshland’s paradigm? His proposal lines up with a suggestion to eliminate all but the Orange Bowl and the Rose Bowl from the collegiate football culture. Now who would support that narrowing of the field and fan options?

    • Elizabeth,
      Good questions all. My basic premise was, and remains, that these “events” evolve and it’s time for that to happen with the Solheim Cup and the Ryder Cup. Why does it have to be the United States against other teams? Let’s open up that side of the ledger to include other countries that are not currently eligible. Once upon a time the Ryder Cup was only Great Britain and Ireland on one side then they opened it up to include all of Europe and the competition is better for it. I contend my proposal is “anti-jingoism” because it adds much needed excitement, ability and inclusion to the U.S. side. We don’t need more events we just need the originals to be better.
      Thanks for reading the piece.

      Keith

  2. No! Just no! Where does it say that the Ryder and Solheim Cups have to be about showcasing ALL the best players in the world. That’s what the majors are for and now the Olympics.

  3. I agree with you about the Oceania / Pacific contingent being poorly served. Not sure the Solheim is the best vehicle for this though? Would love to see an Asia /Pacific team take on the USA & Europe though – the ANZACs ( Aussies, Kiwis) + Asia golfers.

  4. Wrong. The Solheim and Ryder cups should continue exactly unchanged. The international Crown and Queens Cup (women) and the Presidents Cup (men) do exactly what the writer suggests.

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