America’s best attend Solheim Cup practice session ahead of LPGA stop


At a Solheim Cup practice session earlier this week at Reynolds Lake Oconee, American players did everything but play golf. It was decided that Amy Olson is basically good at everything she tries. Jennifer Song and Brittany Altomare excel at archery. Jennifer Kupcho proved the best at distance darts. And Michelle Wie West convinced fellow assistant captain Angela Stanford to jump in the lake fully clothed.

“I think people think that you just show up that week and you gel as a team,” said Stanford. “That’s not how that works.”

Twelve players stayed on in Georgia for the team bonding session, organized by U.S. captain Pat Hurst, before heading on to this week’s Volunteers of America LPGA Texas Classic. Six of America’s top-ranked players chose not to attend.

With COVID-19 restrictions keeping players from having dinners with Hurst and potential teammates throughout the year, this was a rare chance for players to spend time together face-to-face outside the ropes.

“I think it’s really important,” said Salas, who looks to make her fifth Solheim Cup team.

“I think especially when the team dynamic starts shifting. As I used to be one of the newbies, now I’m sort of the veteran. And now we’re not seeing – it’s just the rotation is now starting – now it’s been almost 10 years.

“So I think it’s important not only to show your face, to show that you’re capable of being a team player, but to also get out of that uncomfortableness and be around your potential teammate. Because at the end of the day, that’s who you’re playing for. That’s who you’re grinding and fighting with for three days or for however many matches you’re playing.”

Stacy Lewis of Team USA putts during the second day morning foursomes matches of The Solheim Cup at Des Moines Golf and Country Club on August 19, 2017, in West Des Moines, Iowa. (Photo by Stuart Franklin/Getty Images)

Americans have won six of 15 events on the LPGA this season, and Nelly Korda moved to No. 1 in the world after claiming her first major title at the KPMG Women’s PGA.

Stanford, 43, heads into this week as defending champion of the VOA, just down the road from where she was raised in Saginaw, Texas.

When asked about the importance of having over-40 players in contention on the LPGA, Stacy Lewis went beyond the winning to say that the example players like Stanford set, and the perspective she carries is vital for the tour, particularly in transition times like this.

Lewis noted that players left some bottles on the ground at the Oconee event, and Stanford picked up after them.

“It’s little stuff like that,” said Lewis, “of setting a good example for the younger players. At some point we’re going to hand the tour over to them, and they need to know how to do it like the older players taught us.”

As for big things, Lewis points to pro-ams, saying that watching the way older players interacted with sponsors made a lasting impression on her as a rookie.

“Pro-ams are huge for our tour,” she said. “You know, I think that’s something that some of the younger players don’t get.

“They see it as a hassle and it interferes with practice, but it’s the most important day of our week. So it’s little things like that of what sells our tour and what really makes it work. Sometimes it takes a downturn in our tour or the economy for the younger players to see that. So hopefully we can spread the word about just we have to make our tour better as a whole.”

Cheyenne Knight, who joins Stanford and Lewis as Texans who have won the VOA, first met Stanford more than a decade ago in Fort Worth. Knight said she was so shy that she didn’t even know what to say, but that the next time she out at Shady Oaks, Stanford had left her a pair of shoes from the 2009 Solheim Cup.

“It was so cool,” Knight said. “I think I still have them, honestly.”

Angela Stanford and Gerina Piller of the United States Team react after Stanford made a putt on the 16th hole during the afternoon Four-Ball matches at the 2013 Solheim Cup on August 16, 2013, at Colorado Golf Club in Parker, Colorado. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Lewis said she flew into Texas on Tuesday morning and played nine holes and her body hurt in places she hadn’t felt in years after Monday’s all-sports session.

The badminton, pickleball, fishing and shooting range, as Stanford said, laid the foundation for what comes next at the Inverness Club in September.

“There is so much that week,” said Stanford. “The last thing you want to do is try to figure out a teammate.

“I just think it matters more than people think it matters.”

***

The top seven players from the USA Solheim Cup standings automatically qualify, along with the top two players in the Role Rankings not already eligible plus three captain’s picks.

Current Team USA Points Standings:

  1. Nelly Korda 570.50
  2. Danielle Kang 476
  3. Ally Ewing 290
  4. Lexi Thompson 260.50
  5. Jessica Korda 256.50
  6. Austin Ernst 238
  7. Megan Khang 228
  8. Brittany Altomare
  9. Amy Olson 169.50
  10. Angela Stanford 164.50
1 Nelly Korda 570.50
2 Danielle Kang 476.00
3 Ally Ewing 290.00
4 Lexi Thompson 260.50
5 Jessica Korda 256.50
6 Austin Ernst 238.00
7 Megan Khang 228.00
8 Brittany Altomare 184.00
9 Amy Olson 169.50
10 Angela Stanford 164.50

 

 



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