Juli Inkster returns as Solheim Cup captain
Juli Inkster said being the U.S. Solheim Cup captain was one of the biggest thrills of her career.
And now she gets to do it again.
Inkster was introduced as captain Friday during a surprise announcement at Des Moines Country Club, the Iowa course that will host the 2017 matches. She is the fourth American to be captain a second time, and she will try to join Judy Rankin as the only captain of two winning teams.
It wasn't a difficult decision.
''The committee ... got together right after the Solheim Cup and decided which way to go,'' Inkster said in a conference call. ''They asked me to do it again, and I jumped at the opportunity.''
The Americans staged an improbable rally in Germany to beat Europe this year after a heated debate over Alison Lee picking up her short putt after assuming Suzann Pettersen had conceded it. Pettersen was on the far end of the green. The Americans, furious at what they considered a breach of sportsmanship, won 8 1/2 out of 12 points in singles to reclaim the cup.
Inkster said winning was sweet, though that didn't define her experience.
''Even if we had lost, I would have done it again,'' she said. ''It was so much fun. It was an amazing experience for me. I grew as a person doing it, and some of the leadership skills I didn't think I had, I found out that I could.
''We won, and things turned out well.''
Inkster, who captured the career Grand Slam during her Hall of Fame career, played nine times in the Solheim Cup, once as a playing assistant captain.
''I've had a lot of exciting and memorable highlights during my time on tour, but leading that team of 12 women was one of the biggest thrills of my entire career.'' Inkster said. ''So the answer was easy.''
The hard part was keeping quiet.
Inkster said she had been sitting on the news for more than a month, and she said it was uncomfortable ''telling people, `I don't know' when I already knew.''
That's why the LPGA Tour decided to announce the next captain so far in advance of the August 2017 matches, and on a Friday afternoon a week before Christmas. It was billed as a ''holiday surprise'' at Des Moines Country Club, and Inkster appeared with two of her players, Brittany Lang and Gerina Piller.
It was Piller who made a 10-foot putt that secured the American win in Germany.
Inkster said she was happy to get a chance to be captain on home soil, and the crowds are expects to be enormous. The USGA set attendance records when the U.S. Senior Open was played at Des Moines in 1999.
That also might be her biggest challenge.
''It's going to be harder. There's going to be more pressure on the girls to play, and they're going to have to realize that,'' she said. ''From today with what was happening, a year-and-a-half away, I think the first fairway is going to be lined, packed in red, white and blue. ... I've always wanted to be captain in the U.S.''
She doesn't expect to change much from her captaincy in Germany. Inkster most notably got away from an overdose of patriotism - face paint and fingernail polish - and back to golf. The Americans had lost the last three times and were criticized for being more about style than substance.
''If they wear face paint when they play regularly on tour, have at it,'' she said. ''But I don't see any of them wearing face paint. Sometimes you put so much energy into that stuff and you forget why you're there. We were there to play golf. And that's what the team did.''