2002: Team members weigh in on Augusta

Edina, Minn.

Several players gathered at Interlachen Country Club for the Solheim Cup weren’t shy in stating where they stand on the subject of female membership at Augusta National Golf Club.

“I can’t believe we’re still fighting this stuff – racism, gender equality or whatever,” Juli Inkster said. “But that’s life, I guess. It’s not going to change overnight, but hopefully, in the coming years, it will change.”

Meg Mallon said she has no problems with private clubs excluding women from membership, but believes Augusta National is different because it plays host to a high-profile public event.

“Augusta made itself a public facility,” Mallon said. “They are no longer a private facility, although they like to use that as their cover. My question is: Why is it OK for a black man to bully his way into Augusta and it’s not OK for a black woman to bully her way into Augusta? That’s just the way I feel about it.”

Some players agree with Augusta National’s stance that it won’t be “bullied” by the National Council of Women’s Organizations into admitting a female member, and say the issue has been blown out of proportion.

“I think men should have had the right to do it (have all-male clubs), and the women should have the right to have their private club, too,” Sweden’s Helen Alfredsson said. “And we are probably going to start one where we are all going to wear bikinis, and no men allowed. So that’s going to be a great club, I think.”

Then again, if Augusta National ever does allow a female to join . . .

“If they’re looking for their first woman member,” said Laura Davies, “I would love to join.”

Not so funny: Though Catrin Nilsmark, the 2003 European Solheim Cup captain, was home in Sweden during last week’s Solheim Cup, she still managed to create a stir in Minnesota. Three weeks ago, Nilsmark called Laura Diaz “cocky,” Cristie Kerr “a little brat,” and said Michele Redman “lacked talent.”

American captain Patty Sheehan was attempting to make light of Nilsmark’s comments at the Wednesday players’ dinner when she introduced some of her team members by the names Nilsmark had used, such as Cristie “The Brat” Kerr.

The Europeans didn’t see the humor in Sheehan’s comments. Led by captain Dale Reid, the Europeans had tried to distance themselves from Nilsmark and her comments most of the week. But after the dinner, Reid changed her mind.

“After the gala, we welcome Catrin with open arms,” Reid said in an interview with NBC.

Nilsmark was expected to attend the matches, but stayed home after hurting her back at the airport in Sweden before boarding her flight to America.

The pain in Spain: Reid provided some insight Saturday evening regarding how she chose some of her successful pairings.

First off, Reid admitted that Spanish players Raquel Carriedo and Paula Marti don’t particularly care for one other, saying, “They both speak Spanish, just not at each other.”

Reid said the Spanish rift was a factor when she chose Alfredsson, Davies and Carin Koch as captain’s picks, giving her different scenarios to pair the Spaniards.

Davies played with Marti in three matches and Carriedo was paired with France’s Karine Icher and Denmark’s Iben Tinning.

“Now you’ve got the truth about the picks,” Reid said.

Short shots: Security was especially tight for the Solheim Cup. Access to the clubhouse, for example, was highly restricted. One reason was that the FBI had elevated the Solheim Cup from a grade 3 to grade 4 on its security scale. The highest grade is 5, which is reserved for major championships and the Ryder Cup. . . . The stunning Interlachen clubhouse, providing a view of six different holes on the course, was renovated at a cost of $11 million. The original budget was $5.7 million. The clubhouse contains a Patty Berg room, a Bobby Jones room and a Donald Ross room. On display are replicas of all four Grand Slam trophies won by Jones in 1930, as well as a copy of the hickory-shafted clubs he used to win the 1930 U.S. Open at Interlachen. . . . Annika Sorenstam aced the 182-yard fourth hole in Wednesday’s practice round with a 7-iron. It was her fifth hole-in-one but only two have come in competition, none this year. Sorenstam’s younger sister, Charlotta, has three of the 16 official aces on tour in 2002. . . . Dottie Pepper, recovering from an injured shoulder, began hitting full shots at Interlachen for the first time in two months. Pepper plans to team with Inkster in the Hyundai Team Matches in California Nov. 16-17. . . . Karrie Webb, Nancy Lopez and Betsy King were among the LPGA stars spotted in the gallery. . . . Members of the University of Minnesota’s women’s golf team served as standard bearers for Friday afternoon’s matches. . . . Months before the event, Sheehan hit paint-soaked golf balls into a canvas that ultimately was turned into a modernistic Solheim Cup painting by artist Don Kettleborough. The painting, on display in the Interlachen clubhouse, reportedly has been sold for $10,000. . . . There was a huge sign on the wall of the U.S. team room in the Interlachen clubhouse. The red, white and blue sign read: GO LIKE HELL. Below it was a smaller motivational message: NO FEAR.

– Jay A. Coffin, James Achenbach

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