US, European golfers look ahead to Solheim Cup

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In four years, Solheim Cup mania will envelop northwest Ohio.

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The bi-annual event pitting the top U.S.-born players from the LPGA Tour against the best European-born golfers representing the Ladies European Tour has become the biggest event in women’s golf. And it’s coming to Inverness Club in August, 2021.

In one month, the 2017 edition will take place in Des Moines, Iowa. The pressure is reaching a crescendo, as the Women’s British Open in two weeks is the final event for players to earn points. The U.S. team will consist of the top eight points leaders, the two highest-ranked players in the Rolex Rankings who didn’t qualify, and two captains picks made by Juli Inkster.

Lexi Thompson AFP Photo

“It’s on my mind, but if you play well, you’re going to be on the team,” said Austin Ernst, who’s currently ninth in points. “It’s my No. 1 priority. Anytime it’s a Solheim year, you want to make the team and represent your country.”

The current top eight is Lexi Thompson, Stacy Lewis, Gerina Piller, Cristie Kerr, Jessica Korda, Danielle Kang, Brittany Lang, and Michelle Wie.

Brittany Lincicome moved inside the top 10 with her 12-under finish (tied for eighth) at the Marathon Classic. How important is the Solheim Cup to Lincicome? She used a Solheim Cup ball marker on Sunday as inspiration.

“I’ve been on five teams already, and I’d be sad to miss one,” Lincicome said. “Every putt today, I’ve known I needed to make it to get my points.”

Lincicome said she plans on playing a practice round at Inverness next summer when she’s in town for the Marathon Classic.

LPGA Tour officials estimate 175,000 fans will attend the tournament in 2021. More than half are expected to come from out-of-state, including 15,000 from Europe. The economic impact is estimated to be $50 million. The Solheim Cup receives three days of national television airtime on NBC and the Golf Channel.

Marathon is contributing $1.25 million, and an additional $4.5 million has been pledged by various northwest Ohio and southeast Michigan companies, including Owens Corning, ProMedica, and Dana.

The United States won the 2015 event, which was held in Germany, thanks to the largest comeback in Solheim Cup history. The Americans trailed 10-6 entering Sunday’s singles competition before winning 8½ of the 12 available points.

A gutsy up-and-down by Piller from thick rough that included an eight-foot putt was the defining moment of the dramatic Sunday theatrics.

“A goal of mine was to be a shoo-in for Solheim and become a leader and a face on the Solheim team,” Piller said. “I feel like I’m going in the right direction and just excited about it.”

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