Solheim Cup fans in Des Moines should 'be prepared to lose your voice'

LPGA commissioner Mike Whan embraces unique fan element of team event

Team USA captain Juli Inkster, golfer Jessica Korda, golfer Austin Ernst and Junior Team USA captain Alice Miller speak at Solheim Cup media day in Des Moines on Monday, June 19, 2017. (Dylan Montz/The Gazette)
Team USA captain Juli Inkster, golfer Jessica Korda, golfer Austin Ernst and Junior Team USA captain Alice Miller speak at Solheim Cup media day in Des Moines on Monday, June 19, 2017. (Dylan Montz/The Gazette)

WEST DES MOINES — The long, winding lane leading to the heart of the Des Moines Golf and Country Club has all the makings that indicate a big-time event is on the horizon.

The 2017 Solheim Cup, one of the most prestigious events in women’s golf, will call this course home in August when Team USA and Team Europe square off. Grandstands are in the process of being built while the course itself is nearing its expected level of playability.

Comparisons between the Solheim Cup and other golf events stop at the bare-bones look, though, said LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan. The atmosphere rivals football, international soccer or MMA, particularly at the first tee.

“If you want to be part of the Solheim, be prepared to lose your voice,” Whan said. “I lost my voice at the 2011 Solheim Cup. I’m the commissioner. I shouldn’t be yelling, but I couldn’t help myself.”

The event, which will be held August 14-20, is held every two years and is making its first stop in Iowa. Roughly 71 percent of ticket sales have been purchased by non-Iowa spectators with residents of all 50 states and nine countries in the mix.

Team USA captain Juli Inkster, a 31-time LPGA Tour winner and seven-time major winner, made her third visit to Des Moines on Monday to survey the course.

Inkster captained Team USA’s win in the 2015 Solheim Cup — a 14.5-13.5 comeback win in Germany — and said the upcoming course will provide unique challenges for her yet-to-be-named squad.

“The golf course is going to hold its own. Very, very tricky greens,” Inkster said. “You’re going to have to be pinpoint on your irons. You’re going to have to be able to make some putts. So right after that British Open I’m going to give those guys a little homework and they’re going to start working on their putting.”

The Women’s British Open, which will is August 3-6 in Scotland, is the last event Inkster will see before assembling her team. The tournament will consist of two days of foursome matches with the last day being just 12 singles matches.

The top eight in Team USA’s Solheim points standings will automatically make the team. Two members will qualify through the Rolex Cup World Ranking and two will be selected by Inkster. Professional golfers Jessica Korda and Austin Ernst are fifth and seventh, respectively, as of Monday.

“Wanting to play doesn’t necessarily get you on the team,” Ernst said. “That’s just made me work even harder in the offseason. Everything I’ve done, it’s to win tournaments, but it’s to make the Solheim Cup team too. That’s been my biggest goal these last couple years and I’m looking forward to hopefully being back here.”

Korda made the Solheim Cup in 2013, the last time it was in the United States, but fell short in 2015. The 24-year-old has four LPGA wins and tied for fifth at the 2014 Women’s British Open, but has been eagerly awaiting another shot at Solheim.

“(I needed to) start playing golf without the pressure of a Solheim Cup because sometimes it doesn’t work,” Korda said of her 2015 experience. “Obviously sitting on the couch watching it sucked.

“I was on the couch at (5 a.m.) watching the girls. Just because I wasn’t there didn’t mean that I wasn’t with them. This year I’m playing a lot better. I can put a point up.”

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