AUCHTERARDER, SCOTLAND | The first tee setup at the inaugural Solheim Cup in Florida in 1990 was light years removed from what we have at Gleneagles this week. In 1990, when the event was more an experiment than an international extravaganza, there was nothing in the way of roping. You could stand close enough to the players to hear that never-to-be-forgotten exchange between Laura Davies and Rosie Jones.
When Davies took an iron, Jones came up with a mischievous enquiry as to whether she had a screw missing in her driver “or something.” To which Davies replied, “I won’t need my driver to beat you …”
She didn’t. The result was 3 and 2 to the English player in a week when the Americans won to the tune of 11½-4½.
At Gleneagles, they are using the same stand – for 2,000-plus spectators – as applied at the Ryder Cup of 2014. Needless to say, each player has been wondering how she will feel when she steps aboard the hallowed piece of turf.
Though Danielle Kang, the winner of the 2017 KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, remembers loving every minute of her first-tee experience at that year’s Solheim Cup in Des Moines, Iowa, and even went so far as to call for some more rousing cheers from her home crowd, she says she is not sure what to expect this week.
“I hear that I’m going to be booed at one point, so bring it on. I’d rather hear loud booing than nothing at all,” she said. “I’m excited.”
No-one would want to hear anyone being booed but you would have to think that Kang has the steel to cope with it. After all, she is the player who said during the course of last year’s HSBC Women’s Champions tournament in Singapore, “I know what I want, when I want it – and how I’m going to get it.”
Annie Park, a rookie from the ranks of the Americans, says she’s been advised “to enjoy the crowd, the pressure and the anxiety.”
Good for her if she has what it takes to enjoy all three of those things.
Megan Khang, who was interviewed at the same time as Park, said that she cannot wait.
“So when we did our practice round on Monday, I walked through the little tunnel to get to the first tee and the first thing I thought of was, ‘Wow, I can’t wait till these stands are filled.’ And I turned around (to what was then an imaginary audience) and I kind of went, ‘Let’s go!’ ”
“She practised it today,” said Park.
Any momentary fear that Park might have embarrassed her teammate with that little interjection was short-lived.
“All the veterans tell us that it’s nothing we’ve ever felt before, so I’m nervous, excited and, like, I’m really looking forward to it.” – Megan Khang
“Yes,” said Khang, “I literally practiced it. I can’t wait for the crowd. My parents will be sitting up there. All the veterans tell us that it’s nothing we’ve ever felt before, so I’m nervous, excited and, like, I’m really looking forward to it.”
When Englishwomen Charley Hull and Georgia Hall were asked if they felt it likely that any American might get booed this week, they thought not. Hull thought she might have heard one boo in 2013 in Colorado but she doubted whether there would be anything of the kind for Khang or anyone else.
“Everybody is pretty fair, especially over here in the Home of Golf,” Hull said.
Meanwhile, there was an interesting pattern to play on the first tee of Gleneagles’ King’s Course in the Junior Solheim Cup four-balls. Apparently, players in both teams had thought they should hit off in the same order as was on the draw sheet and it came as a complete shock when the starter asked, “Which of you is going to go first?”
On each occasion, they took a few seconds to sort themselves out before one would step forward and say, “I’ll go!”
What so impressed the starter was that there was never a case of two players saying a hurried, “You go!” to each other.
The back of the grandstand on the first tee at Gleneagles in advance of the Solheim Cup. Photo: Andrew Redington, WME IMG via Getty Images
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