French Solheim Cup players Gwladys Nocera and Karine Icher in Evian
All 24 of the players set to play in next week’s Solheim Cup in Germany, along with the United States Team Captain Juli Inkster, are in France to compete in the Evian Championship, starting tomorrow.
Despite the Solheim buzz at the tournament, the players are fully focused on becoming the next Major Champion and several participants have spoken about their approach to the biggest fortnight in women’s golf.
The top two French stars Gwladys Nocera and Karine Icher, who will be playing on home soil this week in France, have their minds on the task in hand.
Icher, a five-time winner on the Ladies European Tour who will be making her third Solheim Cup appearance in Germany, commented: “They are two great events, so I won’t be doing anything differently. I’ll stick to my routine and stay focused. Everyone wants to play their best so I’ll say focused and work hard.”
Former European No.1 Nocera, a 14-time winner on the LET who will make her fourth Solheim Cup appearance next week at St. Leon-Rot Golf Club, said: “I am very proud to get back to the top and make the team. It was a big goal for me and to achieve it is even better. It’s an honour and I can’t wait to be there next week. I decided not to play last week to rest and get ready, so I stayed home, worked out and worked on my game.”
England’s Melissa Reid, who is playing in her first tournament for three weeks since qualifying to play in her second Solheim Cup, is trying to bed in some recent swing changes at Evian.
She said: “We did a few swing changes last week so I’m just going out there to trust them. It’s the sort of golf course where you shouldn’t have too many expectations because it’s tricky. I feel like I’m hitting it good. It’s just that you need a bit of luck on this golf course. It’s just great to be here and it’s beautiful, isn’t it, so I’ll do my best.”
From the United States team, Morgan Pressel will make her 10th appearance at the Evian this week and the youngest major champ in LPGA Tour history has her attention on earning major No. 2.
“I think everybody’s talking about it so certainly it’s been in the front of everyone’s mind here with a huge major championship, the last one of the year and then going next week with both teams playing here it’s certainly something that people are talking about,” said Pressel. “But at the end of the day if I can play well this week, that gives me a lot of conﬁdence going into next week.”
Alison Lee will make the trip to Germany with an obvious distinction heading to the Solheim Cup: the only player on either team making her ﬁrst appearance at one of golf’s biggest events. The 20-year old from California earned a spot on Team USA based on her Rolex Ranking at the cut-oﬀ date two weeks ago. Lee is currently ranked 29th in the world thanks to a strong LPGA rookie campaign and said she’s going into next week with expectations based oﬀ of her three PING Junior Solheim Cup team experiences. She’s been on the cheering side since 2009 and but is now ready to be on the receiving end.
“First of all, this being my ﬁrst Solheim Cup, I honestly have no idea what’s going to happen, and I obviously have played in several Junior Solheim Cups so I know what it’s like to be there and to cheer on Team USA,” said Lee. “But being able to play on the team this year and actually be one to represent my country, I’m just super excited.”
Lee has had ﬁve top-10 ﬁnishes this season on Tour including a career-best third-place ﬁnish at the Kingsmill Championship and currently ranks ﬁfth in the Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year race. The UCLA Bruin said one of her biggest goals this year was to play in the Solheim Cup and thinks she’ll be at an advantage making her debut on European soil.
“Ever since I turned pro deﬁnitely Solheim Cup was on my mind because I played in three Junior Solheim Cups, so to me, it’s always been a dream of mine to actually play in the Solheim Cup,” said Lee. “I’m actually kind of glad it’s in Europe this year. I feel like it will be a little less nerve-racking because there won’t be, obviously, as many U.S. supporters out there. But I feel like that’s going to be to my advantage so I won’t be as nervous.”
Lizette Salas, who made her Solheim Cup debut in 2013, will be playing in the Solheim Cup for the ﬁrst time on European soil and she said: “I don’t know, prepare for some booing, prepare for some European chants, I have no clue. I’m just preparing for anything, and I’m just going to go out there and kind of clear everything and make as many birdies with my partner as possible. I’m going to do my usual ﬁst pumps and just, I don’t know, it will be fun. But I’m always the proving-people wrong-kind of attitude, so I’m just going to say bring it on and we’ll see who comes out on top on Sunday.”
While European Captain Carin Koch will be watching from outside the ropes this weekend, U.S. Captain and LPGA legend Juli Inkster hopes to be competing for her eighth Major title, if she makes the cut.
Inkster won the Evian Masters in 2003 when it was played at the same venue, before the course underwent major changes three years ago before becoming a world Major. That year, she set the tournament scoring record, 21-under par 267.
The 55-year-old from Califonia is fresh off a win at the Legends Championship on the US Legends Tour a fortnight ago and commented: “You know what? A win is a win. It was really great to get back in the winner’s circle. I played really good coming down the home stretch and it felt good to be in that situation again.”
Although she’s not been sleeping well with The Solheim Cup on her mind, she added: “I really feel like I’ve got things where I want it to be as far as next week. Now it’s just getting it together and playing. I mean, for me to just sit around, I’ve seen all these girls play, to watch them play would be stupid. So I’m glad I’m playing and it will get my mind off it.”