Solheim Cup is an extraordinary moment in the Golfing calendar where athletes in this individual sport come together to represent Team Europe or Team USA every two years. This year the Cup returns to Europe and will be played at the St Leon-Rot Golf Club in Germany. We have written about the Solheim Cup from many angles over time but as of yet we haven’t learnt more about the Team USA players to understand what it’s like to be on the team and to play in a Solheim Cup. Speaking with four previous Team USA players we wanted to understand what it is like to be part of the Solheim Cup event.
The one thing that all of the players instantly said was that it was about the honour of representing your country and that the format of a team event is something they loved. As Brittany Linicome said, “...there is nothing better”. Playing for your country is not something that normally happens in Golf and it is very obvious in listening to the players how much this means to them. “It’s a dream come true and a huge honour,” said Gerina Pillar of being selected to play for Team USA. Or as Lizette Salas put it, “...everyone wants to on the team.”
The stand out thing for me in everything that they all said was the emotion of it, starting with the selection. From the time selections are being decided players start to talk on the course and at events - as Brittany Lang described it, “...you want to be on it (the team) but you need to focus on the golf tournaments you are in (prior to selection).” This seems to be a very nerve racking time for all of those in contention and when you finally get told you are in it’s all just too much for some. As Gerina Pillar explained, “I broke down in tears, the pressure. It still gives me chill bumps, Meg saying ‘you’re going to Colorado with us’.” And then she stopped for a moment and added “I still get teary-eyed about it, it’s the best feeling in golf”.
It seems that a lot of it has to do with validation of the player, in part that they are good enough to make the team, but more importantly I think, that it validates what they are doing and all the hours and sacrifice they have put in over the years. As Lizette Salas said, “...finding out alongside my dad is a special moment, knowing all your work has paid off, I started to cry”. This is an incredibly powerful moment for these players, as it seems from what they say that it somehow connects them and that it’s an experience.
For others the impact is more on the course once you are there and the fans are supporting you and the moment you have always waited for is finally here. As Lizette Salas explained, “I was crying before I got to the first tee, I didn’t know why, such an indescribable feeling”. Or as Brittany Linicome described it “...you feel like you are going to be sick on the 1st tee no matter how many times you have done it”.
If you look at the photos you will see the stands and crowd watching as the first tee shot is taken, that is pressure enough. If you then you then add the fact you are representing your country, the event status, the validation it gives players, there is no wonder they feel like this.
If this is what it is like beforehand and at the start of the competition, how on earth do they keep it together? Brittany Linicome summed it up when she described how “it’s special because you are helping each other, encouraging each other”. They are in this as a team and that’s what gets them through, along with professionalism that kicks in and they focus on playing to their strengths, all powered by the knowledge that they are playing for their country as a team and that this is an opportunity not to be missed. It still doesn’t take away from the intensity of the competition though, and I think Brittany Lang covers it well when she said “...it’s exhausting, you get very little sleep and you run on adrenaline knowing that the next week you can sleep”.
What I really enjoyed was the openness of the golfers talking, they answered my questions so honestly without pretending to be cool about it and that in itself shows what the Solheim Cup means to them and brings out in people. It may not be for the faint hearted but for those who have done it and for those who are on the edges it is a life changing experience.