In a wide-ranging interview, Juli Inkster reveals to Lady Golfer's James Broadhurst that she will not lead the United States at the 2021 Solheim Cup
Juli Inkster will not captain the United States at the 2021 Solheim Cup, the seven-time major winner has revealed in an exclusive in-depth interview with Lady Golfer.
The 59-year-old will take charge of Team USA for a record third time in September when the biennial tournament is held at the Scottish resort of Gleneagles – however, it will be Inkster’s last tournament as skipper.
When asked if she will take charge for a fourth time at Inverness Club, in Toledo, Ohio, she said: “No, no, no, no. You know what, it’s really time for someone else to do it.”
The Hall of Famer added: “It’s like being a manager for a baseball or a football team; sometimes when you come in your voice is heard and sometimes players just need a new voice. I’m sure they are tired of listening to me. I think it’s time for someone else to do it because it’s such an amazing experience.
“I’m going to be in Toledo watching. That’s going to be my job, to watch.”
Inkster led the United States to back-to-back Solheim Cup victories in 2015 and 2017. She will become the first skipper to take charge of three American Solheim Cup sides when she faces Catriona Matthew’s European team in Perthshire from September 13-15.
Inkster, who played in nine Solheim Cups as a player, believes there are several contenders to fill her shoes at Inverness in 2021.
“I think someone like Angela Stanford deserves it, or Pat Hurst, who has been my assistant for a few years,” said Inkster. “I’m not really sure what lies ahead for Cristie Kerr, but I think we have got a good group coming up with Paula [Creamer], Cristie, Angela, Morgan [Pressel], Pat. They played in a lot of Solheim Cups and deserve to be captain.”
For Inkster, leading her country in the Solheim Cup on three occasions will exceed her wildest dreams.
She said: “I was ecstatic to do two and I always wanted to do it on US soil. You know what, I loved doing it. To me, it’s not really the wins and losses; it’s more about the camaraderie. Being a team, being together. I think last year the golf at Des Moines on both the European side and American side was amazing.”
Inkster has the opportunity at Gleneagles to bow out with a 100 per cent win record as America’s skipper, but she knows her team faces a stern test on the PGA Centenary Course at Gleneagles, the scene of Europe’s Ryder Cup victory in 2014.
She has the tricky task of trying to integrate several new faces into her line-up, although she will once again rely on the pod system, which groups like-minded players with similar personalities into pods of four.
“I’m excited,” said Inkster. “It’s probably going to be our biggest challenge yet. It’s always hard playing away and I have a fairly new team, which is also difficult but I think they are up to the challenge. There always comes a time when there is a bit of a changing of the guard – this is probably it. The bottom line is that it is still 18 holes and still just a golf course.
“It’s tough to play away. We are going to have to be mentally ready to go because we start off right away with alternate shot and that is probably the European’s strongest and probably our weakest. I think it really helps us last week playing the Dow [Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational] and playing alternate shot. A lot of these girls have not played it before, so I think it really helps us and them to get two or three days of alternate shot in.”
On the use of the pod system, which has also been successfully deployed by American Ryder Cup captains, Inkster added: “I put them in groups of four – I just think it’s easier to manage a group of four than a group of 12. The girls like it because they know who they are going to play with. It’s just a little more structured I think for them, which I think they like. They know who they are going to play with, so they can practise and it just makes it easier.”
Inkster expects leaders to emerge from within her group of players during the tournament. In 2017, Inkster noticed Danielle Kang and Paula Creamer both took on the role of leaders within the squad.
At Gleneagles, she is looking forward to seeing who will assume the responsibility.
She said: “There is always someone that steps up. Maybe someone that you would never think would step up, steps up. Especially with a new team, I think that’s the beauty of it – you find out how different people handle different things. As a captain, seeing that really makes it fun. You really don’t where it is going to come from but it does come from someone.”
Inkster will face a familiar foe at Gleneagles when Scottish-born Catriona Matthew takes on the captaincy for Europe for the first time.
Matthew featured in nine Solheim Cups as a player, including facing Inkster in the foursomes in 2003 and 2009. Matthew and partner Janice Moodie took the first match against Inkster and Wendy Ward with a 5&3 scoreline. But Inkster got her revenge in 2009, beating Matthew and Moodie 2&1 while playing with Paula Creamer.
Inkster talks about Matthew, also known as Beanie, in glowing terms having known the 49-year-old for several years.
“Oh, she will have them ready. She’s a very competitive person, in a good way. I’m sure she has some things up her sleeve, so it’s hard and we are going to have to be on point. We have never won in Scotland before so we have got a task ahead of us.
“I have known Catriona for a long time and she’s probably one of the most underrated players that we have ever had on the LPGA. She just goes about her business. She is never really favourite and she always just plays very consistent golf. She is a great ball striker and she has been a great player her whole life. She’s very respected by her team and that means a lot to the captain and it means a lot to the players too. I’m sure her team is going to be very fired up to play for her.”
Having seen the Scottish crowds roar Paul McGinley’s side to a 16.5-11.5 triumph at Gleneagles in 2014, Inkster is fully aware that her team will have to come to terms with an electric atmosphere in order to emerge victorious. But Inkster is relishing the prospect.
“Having had a Ryder Cup there, I think we will get really good crowds,” she said. “We will get really good crowds backing the European team. It’s fun to play for the Scottish people. They are very passionate about their golf and I’m sure they will root very hard for their team but I think also they will be very courteous to the United States team. It’s all about golf for them.”
She is hoping that the Scottish weather is kind to her side in September, knowing that a lot of the European players have grown up playing golf against the elements. And although the Ryder Cup was played at Gleneagles five years ago, Inkster is wary of analysing that tournament too closely.
She said: “It’s all really weather dependant. What’s the weather going to be like? It’s different, even though I think this course is pretty Americanised. It’s just really weather dependant. That’s just how it’s going to have to be.
“It’s going to be fun. I hope we get some good weather to really showcase women’s golf. I hope we get some great matches.”
At Gleneagles, Inkster will bring the curtain down on a glittering Solheim Cup career that has spanned 27 years.
There are very few people would bet against her making it three victories in a row come September to pen the perfect ending to her reign as the American captain.
Juli Inkster and Fope
Juli Inkster is an ambassador for Fope, an Italian brand that makes its fine jewellery in Vicenza, near Venice. The family-run business was founded in 1929 and today has 600 retailers across more than 50 countries worldwide.
On her association with Fope, Inkster said: “They are really getting behind women’s golf and really supporting women’s golf. They support the Legends Tour and they are supporting me. I have had nothing but great comments about the jewelleries I wear and how classy it looks. I will be wearing it at the Solheim, that’s for sure. I will be rocking it at the Solheim. The good thing about it is that you can dress it up or dress it down. I can play golf in it but I can also go out at night and look good in it.”
For more information, visit the Fope website.