Eyes on the Prize
Posted by Salman Mitha
Posted in Golf
Germany to host Solheim Cup 2015, Ladies German Open tees off
Golfpark Gut Häusern – Two and a half months before the 2013 Solheim Cup in Colorado, the Ladies European Tour announced the location and dates of the 2015 edition of the female version of the Ryder cup.
The announcement of this bi-annual event pitting Europe versus the U.S.A. highlighted the first day of action from the Unicredit Ladies German Open just outside Munich. After this summer’s Solheim Cup, the event moves to Heidelberg at Golf Club St. Leon Rot from September 14-20, 2015.
Despite the overcast, cool and wet weather, thirteen players recorded scores under 70, including five at -5 atop the leaderboard.
Charley Hull (ENG), Celine Herbin (FRA), Line Vedel (DEN), Diana Luna (ITA), and Stefanie Michl (AUT) were able to weather the ever-changing conditions to lead fifty-five players under par.
Normally a start like that would garner the headlines, but the issue on the minds of the German press was the press conference with 2013’s European captain, Liselotte Neumann of Sweden.
Neumann will captain a Europe side that will try to become the first team to win on the other side of the Atlantic and to repeat. Before last year’s win, the U.S.A. won three consecutive cups, and eight of the total twelve previous occasions since the tournament’s inception in 1990.
A six-time member of previous teams, earning a total of 8.5 points in 21 matches and two Solheim Cup wins, Neumann will have to prepare a team to play at an altitude of 1860 meters or 6,100 feet above sea level.
“We are coming in defending the trophy, that will give us confidence. We will only need 14 pionts to win, the US 14.5 points.”
For 22 years as a professional, Neumann has won 26 titles including the US women’s Open in 1988 – her first full year – and sees this chance as a great bookend to her career.
“To be captain couldn’t be a better finish to my career, and I’m excited to be back in Germany. That’s one of the reasons I am here, keeping an eye on the players who I feel we will have a very strong team, it will be challenge for me.”
The Solheim Cup will be played at Colorado Golf Club in the city of Parker, southeast of Denver. For many athletes who have to come in and compete for a short stay in the Mile High City region, there could be an advantage for the home side.
“We will try to get as many players to get together, bond a bit and to see the course as early as possible,” said Neumann, who has not yet seen the course. “The ball will fly a little longer in the altitude and we want to see what the greens will look like.”
As for a distinct home course advantage, Neumann explained “a lot of the girls already play in the US and are used to the elements, so nothing is going to change, they are used to being over there. If we can get used to the crowds, try to stay in our bubble and work as a team, I think (winning the Cup) can be done.”
Sitting alongside Neumann was Caroline Masson, one of the top German candidates hoping to earn her spot for the 2013 team. Masson is hoping her play will do the talking, and started off the LGO with a solid -1, one of 21 players tied for 35th.
“It’s a huge goal of mine to be nominated for the team in August,” explained the 24-year-old. The road to Colorado will be a tough one, as Masson has yet to win this year. However, the coach will have her picks that can go against the rankings.
“It would be a big step for me. It’s so different than any tournament, it’s the only team competition, and I’m a team player, so it wold be awesome,” said Masson wistfully. “I’m in a good position so if I play well, I have a good chance to make the team. We have a few a tournaments to go, it’s about playing well everyday. I can’t have the Solheim cup in my mind the whole time, I just want to give (coach) a hard time choosing the team,” she added jokingly.
The tour and event organizers of course hope that Masson is not only in this year’s edition, but again in Germany two years further in the future, to help attract the local fans and media, and Masson is happy to oblige with the growth of the game in Germany.
“(Hosting the Cup is) huge for German golf, we have a lot of golfers but we are a small sport in Germany. It would make a huge impact on German golf, and it will be a great opportunity for me a as a player to make the Cup a success if I’m on the team.”
Also in attendance was German amateur Sophia Popov. The University of Southern Cal junior is not in the running for the 2013 team, but with the tournament coming to her home country, she has some extra incentive when she turns pro.
“It’s been my biggest dream to play in the Solheim, it’s bigger than any major. It’s super exciting as the club that has supported me since 2005 and is now the host of the event in 2015. I know so many people there who have helped me especially the president, it makes it that more special.”
The women’s game has grown globally in the shadow of Tiger Woods and the men’s game, but unlike the Ryder Cup that pits enough players to field a USA vs. Europe competition, the women’s game is ignoring the rising stars out of Asia, especially Korea.
Twenty-eight (28!) of the top 50 female golfers hail from Asia, of which 20 are South Korean, including top ranked Inbee Park and #4 Na Yeon Choi. Could there be a chance to expand this tournament or add another event to include another region of the world?
“Add a another event to include Asia and Australia,” agreed Neumann. “But I hope they kept the Solheim Cup, with the tradition and history, and not make it ‘USA vs. the World’!”
Until the sport adopts a World Cup format, Neumann will keep her eyes on the players this weekend and over the next weeks. The cut off date is August 4th to name the team, after the Women’s British Open.
The Ladies German Open is on until Sunday, June 2nd. For more information, please visit http://www.unicreditladiesgermanopen.com/