Juli Inkster poised, proud to captain U.S. for 3rd time at 2019 Solheim Cup

WEST DES MOINES, IA - AUGUST 20: Juli Inkster the United States team captain raises the Solheim Cup the closing ceremony after the final day singles matches in the 2017 Solheim Cup at the Des Moines Golf Country Club on August 20, 2017 in West Des Moines, Iowa. (Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images) David Cannon/Getty Images

Juli Inkster poised, proud to captain U.S. for 3rd time at 2019 Solheim Cup

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Juli Inkster poised, proud to captain U.S. for 3rd time at 2019 Solheim Cup

Juli Inkster didn’t think it was possible. While there’s no written rule, it’s generally understood, Inkster said, that nobody gets to captain for a third time.

But when she got on the Solheim Cup committee call as a past captain last December, the talk quickly turned to Inkster making history. 

“I thought, this is kind of awkward,” said Inkster, “so I said, ‘Hey, I’m jumping off the call, I gave you my two cents, what I think, and just let me know if you want me back on the call or which way you’re going.”

Inkster had made it clear that she didn’t want to step on anyone’s toes, and she wanted 100 percent approval from everyone on the committee. 

That same day LPGA commissioner Mike Whan phoned Inkster and offered her the job. On Golf Channel’s Morning Drive, Whan referred to Inkster as the Bill Belichick of U.S. golf.

“She’s an American icon and star,” echoed Cristie Kerr, “and if anybody has earned the right to do it, she has.”

Inkster, 57, took over after the Americans suffered back-to-back losses in 2011 and ’13. Kerr said the fun-loving captain, a seven-time major winner, brought back the team’s competitive spirit. 

“We just got lost in what the Solheim was all about,” said Inkster. “It’s not about face painting.”

Central to Inkster’s success has been the pod system she introduced before the 2015 Solheim in Germany. She picked the brain of former Ryder Cup captain Paul Azinger about how personalities impact pairings.

Still a regular on the LPGA, the energetic super mom is in touch with every generation on tour, and uses her approachable personality to make it easier for young Americans to relate. Even Bruno Mars music on the first tee – with Inkster’s “smooth” moves – helps set the stage.

“Believe me, it’s not a dictatorship,” she said.

European captain Catriona Matthew had a feeling that Inkster would be back at the helm. The 2019 event will be held in Matthew’s native Scotland Sept. 13-15 at the PGA Centenary Course at The Gleneagles Hotel.

Winning ways always have to come to an end,” she said of stopping the Inkster train.

To that end, Matthew announced changes to the selection of the European team in 2019. In the past, four players were qualified off both the Rolex Rankings and the Ladies European Tour points standings. Now five players will come off the world rankings. 

Matthew said the Rolex Rankings are a “good reflection of where people are standing in the world of golf.” Players must also now compete in eight Ladies European Tour events in between Solheims, up from six, a move that should strengthen the struggling tour.

Inkster calls her run as Solheim Cup the highlight of her career. In Germany, she learned the value of sticking to who you are when adversity strikes. She leads with her heart and her gut, and players respond to the unique way she keeps things both loose and competitive.

But this is it. Scotland, Inkster said, will be the last time she leads Team USA. The Hall of Famer realizes that being at the helm for a third time could motivate the Europeans even further, and she’s OK with that.

Believe me, they’re motivated to put a pie in my face,” she said. “That’s fine, I’ll be the punching bag. I had two brothers, so I can take it. But I think my team will be motivated to win too. So it’s what it’s about, it’s about competition and it’s about just going out there and playing the best you can play and bringing more fans to LPGA golf.”

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