ORLANDO, Fla. – The LPGA unveiled a new international team event at the PGA Merchandise Show for those feeling left out of the biennial Solheim Cup. The International Crown will feature four-player teams from eight countries, competing over four days for the title of world’s best. The event will debut July 24-27 at Caves Valley in Owings Mills, Md., in 2014. The 2016 stage will take place at Rich Harvest Farms in Illinois, site of the 2009 Solheim Cup.
“I don’t know if I can wear the crown or not,” said South Korea’s Na Yeon Choi, who likely would headline a highly competitive Korean team.
For years World No. 1 Yani Tseng has watched the U.S. and European players compete with their team bags and team wardrobes, thinking you look so good in it. Tseng, of Taiwan, concedes she would’ve played for either team if given the chance.
The eight countries won’t be led by captains or coaches. Players will compete for a $1.6 million purse over four days. Each member of the winning team will receive $100,000.
“Finally. That was my reaction,” said Stacy Lewis, America’s top-ranked player. “We have been waiting a long time for this.”
So who’s paying for this event? LPGA commissioner Mike Whan said it’s an LPGA-owned event and that several “ambassadors” were partnering with the tour to make it happen. They won’t be revealed until a later press conference at Caves Valley.
“All of these sponsors have come to me and are willing to let the Crown be the focus of both the name and the event,” Whan said.
Teams will qualify based on a combined points system off the Rolex Rankings. The cutoff for the top eight teams for 2014 will follow the last event of the season. The cutoff for players trying to qualify will be the Monday of the Kraft Nabisco Championship in 2014.
The four-day event will be held on non-Solheim Cup years and will feature three days of four-ball competition and one day of singles play. The top five teams will advance to Sunday.
“We said, Let’s not bring out a format that the world has seen or a U.S.‑centric us versus everybody else,” Whan said. “Let’s not try to put people in continents or regions and waves. Let’s let countries be countries, and introduce something to the world of golf that can really take advantage of what’s happening in the women’s game.”
If the competition were held today, the eight teams would be South Korea, U.S., Japan, Sweden, Australia, Spain, Taiwan and England.
It’s too bad players such as Norway’s Suzann Pettersen and China’s Shenshen Feng will have trouble fielding a team of four in the coming years to qualify. It’s also unfortunate that the event’s 2014 staging will take place the week before the Ricoh Women’s British Open. It will be a tough turnaround for players participating in both, though as Whan points out, the Crown won’t feature double-round days like other team events.
The 2016 Crown will take place just before the Olympics in Brazil. At this point, Whan and his team are uncertain if the event will travel outside the U.S.