All eyes around the dinner table were in lockstep. No one checked their phone to see if they had a text. There was no individual chatter among segments of the table. All eyes and minds of the potential United States Solheim Cup team, for that instance, were just on their fellow dinner mate that evening - former President of the United States, George W. Bush, seated at the table across from them, commanding the room the same way he once commanded a nation.
His message, though, on that Monday night two weeks ago wasn’t about him. It was about the team; more specifically, the importance of having a good one around you. And he talked about pressure and the importance of a leader staying calm in the face of it.
It wasn’t just the message that the players took away but also a confidence – the type that comes from knowing that the leader of your team, Juli Inkster, has the type of unflappable demeanor that Bush was lauding.
“I remember telling Juli that Juli does that really well,” Angela Stanford said. “Like you never know with Juli, like she’s always like, ‘Hey, yeah, let’s go, it’s going to be good. I’m good.’ You never know if there’s anything wrong, and that was one of the things – I just kind of kept taking away the team aspect of what he was talking about. When things aren’t going well, you have to stay calm and you have to project a sense of everything is fine, and I told Juli, I’m like, ‘I see that in Juli.’”
Coming off an 18-10 trouncing in Colorado two years ago, the first loss on American soil ever, the red, white and blue will head to Germany in September hoping to avenge back-to-back losses in the biennial format and hoping that Inkster’s the leader needed to rally the troops.
“Juli is a more hands-on, but yet she’s really relaxed and really easy-going,” Lizette Salas, a member of the 2013 American team, said. “She really wants to get a good grasp of what every team member is like, personality-wise and as a golfer, and it’s a completely different approach than the captain in 2013, which was Meg Mallon. So she’s just trying to match us as great as she can so we can get that Cup back later this year.”
She’s also more hands on than captains in previous years because she’s still competing and beating some of the potential girls on her team as Inkster’s last three finishes are T64, T15, and T7. It’s a chance for her team to not only get to know their Captain but also for Inkster to see first-hand what they could potentially bring to her team.
“Makes us all stay on our toes,” Cristie Kerr said with a laugh of Inkster’s play.
Ultimately, that’s the job of any great leader – keep people accountable while allowing them to perform.
“I think she’ll inspire the best in us,” Kerr said. “She’ll inspire us to leave it all out there and play with heart. And, you know, the team is shaping up really well.”