Louise Solheim’s name will be brought up often this week at the 18th playing of the biennial event that carries the family’s name. Her youngest child, John, has been an omnipresent figure at every playing, and her grandchildren, including John’s son, John K., the current CEO of Ping, are on-site in Spain, continuing the family tradition that traces back to one of the seminal female figures in the history of the game - a woman who never played a round until she was in her 50s, but whose presence is felt with every shot struck in the Solheim Cup.
You cannot appreciate the history of this event without understanding the woman who gave it her nod of approval. Louise Solheim was born in 1918 in Spokane, Washington. When she was an infant, her mother died of scarlet fever, a disease that, while still around, seems ancient in today’s world. Like many children who lose a parent young, Louise overachieved at everything. She was a mathematics and science standout at a time when such studies were deemed unladylike. But she found her soulmate, a man of equal intellect and extreme moral fiber, at a church function. It was there that Louise saw a handsome, curly-haired man in the choir loft leading a group of adolescent boys. He was a local shoemaker and Norwegian immigrant named Karsten Solheim. They were married six months later. Louise was 18. Karsten was 24.