She didn’t expect it. Didn’t even think it was possible. Being a Solheim Cup captain for three straight competitions is not only a six-year run – a long time to commit to something as time-consuming and, at times, aggravating as running a team – but there are a ton of worthy candidates waiting in line for their time. So, it was something of a surprise, not just to fans but to the captain herself, that Juli Inkster was asked to take a third straight stab at leading the American Solheim Cup team, this time at Gleneagles, Scotland, in 2019.
“They have a committee that works on picking the next Solheim Cup (captain) and I kind of put my two cents in,” Inkster said. “Everybody thought it would be great for the LPGA and great for the Solheim Cup if I continued. The next in line would probably be Cristie Kerr or Paula Creamer or even Pat Hurst (who) probably deserves a chance to do it. But (the committee) just thought that, overseas and playing in Scotland, and we have a good thing going right now, that why change it? I said I would love to do it, but I don’t want to step on anybody’s toes. So, this is it. I’m going to do it one more time and then I’m going to step aside and watch somebody else do it.”
As a past captain, Inkster was on the Solheim Cup committee along with other past captains, Commissioner Mike Whan, LPGA chief communications and tour operations officer Heather Daly-Donofrio and LPGA player president Vicki Goetz Ackerman. So, when the discussion turned to Inkster three-peating as captain, she politely excused herself from the conference call.
Mike Whan called her not long afterward and asked if she would take the job one more time.
That was December 18. It’s been a closely-guarded secret ever since. And while there might be some disappointment from those future captains who didn’t get the call, players will have no qualms about the pick. Inkster has been one of the most respected and beloved captains in team golf history.
“I really think I learned a lot about myself, to trust my instincts and trust my gut and really trust my heart, (to do) what I think is the right thing to do,” Inkster said. “I really learned a lot (at the 2015 Solheim Cup) in Germany because it didn’t really look like we were going to win. But that Sunday I was really proud of the way I handled things and the way the team came together and handled things. I learned that, under adversity, you just stick to who you are. That’s all you can do. And that’s really what I’ve done the last couple of years, just stick to who I am and I don’t try to be anybody different.”
The person she is, is the person the players want.
“I wouldn’t trade it for anything,” Inkster, who is a member of the both the LPGA and World Golf Halls of Fame, said of the captaincy. “I’ve been fortunate to do some good things in golf but being part of this team and being part of the Solheim Cup and representing the USA and what it means to women’s golf both on the European side and the LPGA side, it’s at the top (of my career). I think you saw it in Des Moines, how well those guys played, and I would love to keep bringing that to our fans and to the new fans… I mean, every Solheim captaincy that I’ve had has been at the top.”