It’s a return to the basics for Team U.S.A.
The patriotic flare fans have seen the American team donning at past Solheim Cup’s is becoming a thing of the past as captain Juli Inkster urges her team to get back to the basics of just playing golf. The face paint, ribbons, colorful nail polish and accents that adorned Team U.S.A. have been stripped down as Inkster hopes to retake the cup from Team Europe, who won the previous two meetings.
“We haven’t spent any time on nails. Yeah it’s a different group, so we’re doing fine,” Inkster told the media Tuesday in Germany.
The change is one that has made Team Europe take notice.
Not ones to partake in the extra flare the Americans have worn in past matches, Team Europe welcomes what they believe will make for an even better competition.
“I think what Juli is trying to say is we’ve got to, from the American point of view, we’ve got to do something here, we’ve got to concentrate on their golf,” Team Europe’s Caroline Masson told the media. “We’re not going to underestimate them. We know that they’re going to come out and play, especially with a captain like that. It’s not really the point of, you know, face paint or painting nails or whatever, it’s just a statement that they’re going to be ready to play.”
The change has been well received by the Americans, who have matured in their years playing on behalf of their country.
“I think everybody’s grown up,” said Stacy Lewis, making her third appearance for Team U.S.A. “It’s just growing up a little bit and knowing that you don’t need to go crazy and get the crowd going all the time. We’ve come here with a mission.”
“It’s definitely toned done from the first Solheim I was at,” said Lizette Salas, who played her first Solheim Cup in 2013. “I think it’s a lot of excess energy that’s used on trying to put a, where do I put this tattoo or does this ribbon match this outfit? None of that. We go out and handle our business and play the best golf that we can. And I think it’s working.”
Salas and Lewis addressed the media together Tuesday afternoon, perhaps in part to the strategy being employed by captain Inkster this year who is using the pod system employed by U.S. Ryder Cup Captain Paul Azinger in his 2008 victory at Valhalla Golf Club.
The pod system groups like-minded players with similar personalities who spend the week both on and off the course together. While Inkster admitted to using the strategy Tuesday, she wasn’t willing to reveal any details until play is complete on Sunday.
“I’m using kind of a variation of it,” Inkster said. “The girls kind of know what I want to do and how I want to do it. I’ll get all that come Sunday, give it all to you on Sunday. But right now we’re just kind of working the system.”
Like Lewis and Salas, Gerina Piller and Brittany Lang addressed the media together on Tuesday and weighed in on Inkster’s use of the pod system.
“You know, she’s doing her thing, telling us who she thinks will play well together,” said Lang, a captain’s pick for Team U.S.A. “I think she has a nice plan.”
“It’s been a lot of fun just to kind of match up with different girls and see how they play,” said Piller, who picked up the game in 2000. “I’m still learning. So it’s pretty cool to me to almost pick their brains and learn something from them.”
For Inkster, her plan is about getting back to golf, eliminating any pressure or distractions that may push players out of their routine or affect their ability to play their best golf.
“I’m just trying to keep them on their regular schedule of what they do during a tournament. Try not to make it any bigger than it is,” said Inkster. “And I just told them you’re very good at what you do when you do it every week, so just stick to that program.”
“Plain and simple. Get out there and get to work,” said Piller in describing captain Inkster’s strategy. “To me, I see Juli as very black and white, just keep it simple, play good golf and get that ball in the hole.”
“She’s work hard, practice, don’t over-celebrate, don’t be flashy, simple, like Gerina said,” Lang said. “And I really like it. We’re not doing anything special, just working on our games individually. It’s refreshing.”
Lending to that refreshing atmosphere has been the ongoing laughter from the captain, which has helped to ease the stress on Team U.S.A. as they focus on snapping Team Europe’s winning streak.
“You can hear Juli laughing from anywhere in the hotel or in the bus or on the golf course,” said Lewis. “There’s no pressure. There’s no stress at all. I don’t know it’s just been great so much. Juli is super competitive, and that I think more than anything is what separates her from the other captains I’ve played for is how competitive Juli is.”
“She is leading by example, but at the same time she trusts in each of us and knows that we can, knows that we can pull this off and play the best golf that we can,” said Salas. “And I think that’s what makes a great captain.”