Juli Inkster never seemed cool and relaxed when she was playing in the Solheim Cup. Other than Dottie Pepper, it’s hard to recall an American player who entered the biennial matches with more fire than the 53-year-old.
So, it came across as curious when Inkster, in her first news conference as the 2015 Solheim Cup captain, kept talking about how loose and jovial she wants to make the matches next summer in Germany.
“I want to make it fun” Inkster said. “But also I’m sure the girls are not happy with losing the last couple of years, and I’m sure they want to turn it around. I think they’re going to do everything they can to do that.
“My main objective is to represent the United States in the Cup, have fun, enjoy what we’re doing, play with who you want to play with, take the pressure off and don’t worry about the outcome. Just go out there and play.”
The World Golf Hall of Fame member knows that won’t be easy. Despite winning 18.5 points in nine Solheim appearances – more points than any other American player – Inkster admitted the event is among the more pressure-packed in women’s golf.
“I’ve never been more nervous than playing a Solheim Cup,” Inkster said. “It’s very nerve racking, very intense. But it’s also the most rewarding when you have a partner out there. You just don’t want to let your partner down. You don’t want to let your teammates down.
” I think sometimes that’s where the pressure comes from, of trying too hard and doing things that you really wouldn’t do on a golf course.”
She said her job as captain is to try to defuse that pressure.
“Let’s just have some fun with it,” she said, invoking the word again and again. “It’s not do or die. You’re still going to be the same person when you get on that plane and fly home, but it will be a lot more enjoyable flight if we have that Cup with us. That’s our goal.
“It’s not rocket science; you just go over there and play some golf. Believe me, if they just play the way they should play, we’re going to have fun, and we’re going to win.”
Inkster named Pat Hurst as assistant captain. A recipient of the Juli Inkster Scholarship at San Jose State, Hurst has been one of Inkster’s closest friends on tour, despite a nine-year age difference. The two paired together in the 2007 Women’s World Cup of Golf, hail from the same area of California and have similar demeanors.
“I really trust her, and I trust her opinions,” Inkster said of Hurst. “She really thinks things out. She might not make a decision right away, but she’ll think it out and she’ll work it out and then she’ll give you her opinion. And sometimes I kind of go too quickly, so I think she’ll be good at reining me in a little bit.”
Inkster also said she thinks her experience as a parent will help her during crunch time.
“You know, a lot of these girls are my kids’ age,” she said. “I think I kind of know where they’re coming from and know what they’re thinking. Hopefully I don’t get any roll of the eyes, but you never know.
“But I do think it’ll help. No one wants to be micromanaged, and I don’t micromanage my kids, and I’m not going to micromanage the team. I have a lot of respect for my kids, and I have a lot of respect for these girls here. They know what they’re doing.”