By Jay A. Coffin
Nancy Lopez is undefeated in team matches with Beth Daniel at her side. It makes sense that Lopez would turn to a familiar face for one of her two picks as captain of the U.S. Solheim Cup team.
Daniel and Wendy Ward were Lopez’s two captain’s selections Aug. 28, completing the 12-player team that will face Europe Sept. 9-11 at Crooked Stick in Carmel, Ind.
Also on the team are Cristie Kerr, Meg Mallon, Juli Inkster, Rosie Jones, Pat Hurst, Natalie Gulbis, Christina Kim, Paula Creamer, Michele Redman and Laura Diaz.
Ward and Daniel were 13th and 14th in points, respectively. Dorothy Delasin and Heather Bowie were bypassed by Lopez at 11th and 12th in points. Nine of the 12 members have played on at least two Cup teams and combine for 37 years of Solheim Cup experience.
“I wish I had 15 members on the team,” Lopez said. “I had to turn away three players last night and this morning (Stacy Prammanasudh was the other, at No. 15 in points). It was very, very hard. They didn’t do anything wrong. But how can you have a Solheim Cup team without Beth Daniel?”
We’ll have to wait at least two more years to find out. Daniel, 48, has played in seven Solheim Cups – she missed 1998 – and this is the third time she has been a captain’s selection (1996, 2000). She has a 10-8-5 Solheim Cup record and can be paired with anyone in any format.
Daniel and Lopez were on the victorious U.S. Curtis Cup team in 1976 at Royal Lytham and St. Annes in England, as well as the victorious U.S. Solheim Cup team in the 1990 inaugural matches at Lake Nona in Orlando, Fla. This will mark the third time they’ve teamed together in 29 years.
“I’ve spent my entire career trying to beat Nancy Lopez,” Daniel said. “Now I get to be with her for the third time, side-by-side. I can’t think of anyone else I’d rather play for.”
Ward, 32, had an 0-4-0 record in 2003 in Sweden, but provided great inspiration in 2002 with her 2-1-1 record. She won the Takefuji Classic in April and has been consistent the past few months.
Immediately following the announcement, the team boarded a motor coach and made the three-hour journey from Ohio to Indiana, where it was expected to practice Aug. 29 at Crooked Stick.
Lopez would not disclose possible pairings, but said that would be one of the topics discussed on the road trip. Some potential pairings include: Creamer-Inkster, Creamer-Jones, Inkster-Daniel, Daniel-Kim, Jones-Mallon, Gulbis-Kerr, Redman-Kerr and Diaz-Ward. Diaz is five months pregnant and likely won’t play more than three matches.
Regardless, the youngest U.S. player is already predicting victory.
“They better get ready,” Creamer said of the European team, “because they’re going to get beat. I’m laying it down. I’m very confident and I know we have a good team and the best captain that anyone can have.”
The European team was announced by captain Catrin Nilsmark. The automatic qualifiers were Annika Sorenstam, Laura Davies, Ludivine Kreutz, Maria Hjorth, Iben Tinning, Trish Johnson and Gwladys Nocera. Nilsmark’s five captain’s selections were Sophie Gustafson, Carin Koch, Catriona Matthew, Suzann Pettersen and Karen Stupples.
Pettersen is a controversial pick instead of Liselotte Neumann because she has been injured and struggled with her game this year. However, Pettersen was a stalwart for Europe in 2003 and paired with Sorenstam to provide a lethal combination.