KINGSBARNS, Scotland – U.S. Solheim Cup captain Juli Inkster has chosen two rookies to complete her Solheim Cup team, while European captain Annika Sorenstam has opted for a mixture of experience and youth.
Inkster chose Angel Yin and Austin Ernst over more experienced players Paula Creamer and Morgan Pressel to join Lexi Thompson, Stacy Lewis, Gerina Piller, Cristie Kerr, Jessica Korda, Danielle Kang, Michelle Wie, Brittany Lang, Brittany Lincicome and Lizette Salas to round out her 12-women team.
Sorenstam opted for experienced players in Anna Nordqvist and Caroline Masson along with rookies Emily Pedersen and Madelene Sagstrom. They join Georgia Hall, Florentyna Parker, Mel Reid, Jodi Ewart Shadoff, Carlotta Ciganda, Suzann Pettersen, Charley Hull and Karine Icher. There’s no room on the European side for Azahara Munoz and Scotland’s Catriona Matthew, although the latter will serve as one of Sorenstam’s vice captains.
“It’s tough,” Inkster said. “This is the hardest day. There are a lot of would be’s and won’t be’s, should I’s or shouldn’t I’s. I spoke with Pat (vice-captain Pat Hurst) and we just went with our gut.
“I just think it was a win/win,” Inkster said about Yin and Ernst. “They are rookies but they have to play some time, and I have a lot of confidence in them.”
Ernst had her sights set on the 2015 match but just missed out. She specifically targeted a spot on Inkster’s team at the start of the qualification process.
“It’s awesome,” said Ernst, who was a member of the 2012 U.S. Curtis Cup team that lost to Great Britain & Ireland in Nairn, Scotland despite winning two and a half points out of a possible four. “It’s a dream come true. I wanted to make the last team.”
Yin is the youngest member of the team at just 18, and is only in her second LPGA season. “I’m happy with my game right now,” she said. “I’m pretty confident going into the match in two weeks’ time.”
Creamer misses the match for the first time since her debut in 2005, during which time she’s compiled a 14-8-5 record and appeared on four winning teams.
“She’s a competitor and I would be hurt, too,” Inkster said. “She understood. She just hasn’t played well the last year and a half to two years.”
Sorenstam has gone for the best of both worlds with two experienced players and two rookies, but she could have gone for more experience to balance the two rookies in Hall and Parker who had already made her team. Matthew and Munoz were the obvious choices, but Sorenstam went for youth.
“It’s a tough thing to do, and I’ve never done it before,” Sorenstam said. “Emily and Madelene are up and coming players. Both are very strong. I think their games suit the course and our players want to play with them.
“I feel like they’re meant to be Solheim Cup rookies.”
Europe would appear to be the underdogs considering Sorenstam has four rookies and the match is on U.S. soil. However, she dismissed that talk quickly.
“It’s always a challenge to play in the U.S., but if you look at the last time we won in the U.S. – in Colorado four years ago – we won with six rookies,” Sorenstam said.
Europe trails the series 9-5 but has won two of the last three matches. They suffered a last-day collapse two years ago at St Leon Rot Golf Club near Heidelberg, Germany when Inkster’s U.S. team overcame a 10-6 deficit to win 14 1/2 to 13 1/2, the closest contest in the match’s 27-year history.