By The 2017 European Solheim Cup Captain, Annika

It’s now less than 30 days until the 2017 Solheim Cup in Des Moines. With on-the-ground logistics all taken care of, our complete focus is now on the team and potential players. When I was appointed captain roughly 18 months ago, I had about 30 players on my radar. That number has slowly gotten smaller. Today we’re looking closely at around 16 players who have a chance to represent Europe in one month.

As I approach this part of the captaincy, I ask myself, “What’s a team?” A dictionary definition is, “A group of people participating in a sport with a common purpose.” And what makes a great team? Well, it starts at the top. The best leaders and sports coaches share a number of common, important attributes — be a mentor, be organized, reinforce positive thinking, be inspirational, create a harmonious environment, and utilize the players’ skills. I keep coming back to a few tactics employed by two legendary basketball coaches: the University of Tennessee women’s basketball coach Pat Summit, and U.C.L.A. men’s basketball John Wooden. Coach Summit always liked to say, “Our emphasis is on execution, not winning,” while Coach Wooden was a master at inspiring his players with short messages to help them rise to the occasion.

Above all else, the primary responsibility facing captains, coaches and CEOs is to make sure the team they’ve built is the right team for the task. In this case, the right team is one with players who possess certain skill sets and attributes. We’re keeping our eyes on ladies who’re currently playing well. We’re also seeking players who have match play skills and experience, as well as individuals who are team players, i.e. ladies who mix well with others and are easy to work with. In any team situations, unplanned and unforeseen incidents happen. Therefore, despite being fully prepared, we also need our team members to be flexible.

Many players are peaking at just the right time, meaning the team announcement on Sunday, August 6 at the Ricoh Women’s British Open will not be easy. It’s been an honor to closely follow their play over the last 18 months, and I’m really excited by how Team Europe is shaping up.

Thanks,

A

By The 2017 European Solheim Cup Captain, Annika

It’s less than 70 days until the first shot will be struck at the Solheim Cup. In late May, a few vice captains, players and I made our last trip to beautiful Des Moines Golf and Country Club for a practice round. This was my second scouting visit and a great opportunity to really dive into details and share my thoughts with the rest of Team Europe.

It was also helpful to see the players hit shots on the course. It gave us all a good feel for how it will play. Naturally, the weather conditions and course setup will be different this summer, but we gained an excellent overall feel for the strategy it will require.

The official scorecard has the layout playing at 6,900 yards, which is quite long in relation to other Solheim Cups. The fairways were quite generous, so a long hitter should have an advantage. The greens are on the firm side and undulating. Accurate approach shots and skillful lag putting will be very useful.

As the Away team, we’re not involved in the course set up. Therefore, while in town we were focused on arranging the locker room and our team room at the hotel. We’re really concentrating on the logistics both inside the ropes as well as outside. This includes making sure no detail goes unnoticed, things like restaurant reservations, transportation, etc.

During our visit we included the media in our preparations. It’s great to see the amazing commitment from the sports enthusiasts in this town. The club has been amazing and very helpful. We really feel the love and encouragement. Everyone is working hard to make this the best Solheim Cup ever!

In addition, I’d also like to thank the LET staff for the hard work and dedication. They are doing all they can to make my job easier.

As we get closer to the finish line, please continue to stay connected with us through our different social media channels. We will announce the final vice-captain pick within the next few weeks. I am very excited and proud of the leadership team we have assembled.

It’s a hectic summer for the players. There are many big, major events on the calendar in the next two months – Solheim Cup points are up for grabs as are Rolex World Ranking points. Good luck, ladies!

Thanks,

A

By The 2017 European Solheim Cup Captain, Annika

This week is the Lorena Ochoa Match Play, an LPGA-sanctioned event in Mexico City, Lorena’s home nowadays.

As I’m packing my bag and getting ready to go to Mexico to be part of the festivities, I can’t stop reminiscing about my playing days against her. Although I was in the latter part of my career and she was just beginning her journey, we had many fun, but intense, battles for the number one spot in the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings. I have the utmost respect for her, not only as a competitor, but as a trailblazer for Latin American golf.

I remember Lorena as a young, talented, friendly and exciting player. She had a big, wide swing with lots of power. She launched the ball high and with some good spin. She also possessed an amazing touch, making her short game the envy of many. To this day, I can picture her handsy move and incredible feel around the greens.

I can also still envision her leap into Poppie’s Pond in Rancho Mirage after winning the first major of the year, the ANA Inspiration. To celebrate, Lorena, her family and the rest of her team, wore sombreros while jumping into the water. It was priceless!

She truly was a breath of fresh of air when she came out on tour in the mid-2000s. She brought a new demographic to the game. Everywhere she went, she took time to engage the Latin American community, on and off the course. Her giving nature, even more so than the fact that she was the first Mexican golfer ever ranked No. 1 in the world, is why she has become synonymous with our great game not only in her home country, but across all of Central and South America.

We’re traveling to Mexico City this week to celebrate Lorena and her amazing playing career — 30 wins, two major championships, Rookie of the Year, Player of the Year and other prestigious honors. Despite leaving the professional tour earlier than many expected to start a family and spend time growing her foundation, she enjoys a wonderful golf legacy. Later this year, Lorena, along with Meg Mallon, Davis Love III, Ian Woosnam and Henry Longhurst, will be inducted to the World Golf Hall of Fame. It’s an honor she richly deserves.

But first, coinciding with this week’s LPGA event and Cinco de Mayo, Lorena will once again show off her skills in a fun event in her home country. She’s been kind enough to invite me, Juli Inkster and Se Re Pak to join in the fun.

I look forward to once again walking the fairways with Lorena. It will be very different than the last time we teed it up together, as playing golf is no longer the first priority for either of us. However, that will make my time with her no less of an honor. We’re both very fortunate to now spend our days inspiring the next generation through our respective foundations and, even more importantly, cherishing our roles as mothers.

Congratulations, Lorena, on all you’ve accomplished.

Thanks,

A

By The 2017 European Solheim Cup Captain, Annika

The first LPGA major is in the BOOKS, yes, BOOKS with capital letters. If you were watching live or caught up later, it was a very bizarre finish to the ANA Inspiration. Normally this tournament is about the leap into Poppie’s Pond and the champion wearing a robe. Of course, this tradition continued, but it was after two hours of confusion and subsequent clarification.

In a nutshell, Lexi Thompson, playing in the last group, was approached by two LPGA officials and informed they had just been alerted that she’d breached Rule 16-1b in the third round. A television viewer had called the LPGA and told them Lexi played from the wrong place after mis-marking her ball on the putting green. As a result, she had been assessed a two-stroke penalty for the infraction. In addition, she had incurred another two-stroke penalty for signing an incorrect score card at the conclusion of her third round. Of course this was a complete surprise to all the competitors and, most especially, Lexi.

These situations are always tough for everybody involved. First of all, there was certainly no intent to break any rules on Lexi’s part (she wrote a nice note on social media to explain herself). Secondly, to get this news a day late and based upon a viewer calling in is a very frustrating scenario. Lexi handled herself with class and, after regrouping, fought very hard to get back in the tournament. She eventually lost in a one-hole playoff to Ryu So-Yeon.

They say there is no such thing as “bad publicity” – after all, this major will undoubtedly be remembered due to the rules infraction and the way our sport allows viewers to impact the outcome of televised events. Golf is unique in many respects, including that we are the only sport where competitors are their own officials and referees. We are also the only sport where viewers can report potential infractions and tournament officials have an obligation to listen.

The ANA Inspiration, other majors or any tour-sanctioned event for that matter have elected to follow the rules of golf as written by two of the game’s governing bodies, the USGA and R&A. There’s little doubt that Lexi did unintentionally breach a rule, but was the penalty justified? What can we do moving forward to avoid similar incidents and these embarrassing moments?

Thanks to more golf on television than ever before and the popularity of DVRs, this situation is becoming increasingly prevalent. Who can forget what happened this past summer at the U.S. Women’s Open where Sweden’s Anna Nordqvist was the victim of a similar situation?

As with all controversies, there will be many debates. The biggest issue to be resolved is how can we make the rules of golf more fair. The USGA began the process earlier this year when it announced a plan to make the rules easier to apply. I am sure what happened this weekend will be addressed.

On the bright side, I am so proud to see how our athletes handle adversity with such amazing class and dignity. I also commend the LPGA officials for handling the situation as well as they possibly could. It’s never fun to be the bearer of the bad news. For centuries, our sport has been a game of honor and character. I have little doubt it’s a major reason why millions of us like it so much.

At the end of the day, Ryo So-Yeon, who is one of the nicest girls on tour, got to wear the famous white robe, carry the trophy home and take the lead in the Rolex ANNNIKA Major award standings. But I also know Lexi won over even more fans than she had before, and learned something new about herself given the graciousness with which she handled the entire episode.

As the old saying goes, “What doesn’t kill you will make you stronger.”

Thanks,

A

By The 2017 European Solheim Cup Captain, Annika

Tulips, the Easter Bunny, March Madness. All are synonymous with spring which also means the first LPGA major is here. The ANA Inspiration is taking place this week in Rancho Mirage, California. This is the only domestic major of the five on the schedule that has been played on the same course since its inception. The Dinah Shore course is a favourite of many and considered one of the best on tour. It’s quite long, has narrow fairways and frequently features challenging rough. Firm and fast greens are also an annual challenge – just what you’d expect for a major championship.

The tournament is very rich in history. It was founded in 1972 by a special lady, Dinah Shore, who was one of America’s most famous entertainers for many decades. Originally referred to as the Colgate-Dinah Shore, it was made a major championship about 10 years later when Nabisco became the title sponsor. The great tradition that began with Dinah’s involvement continues today under its name since 2015, the ANAInspiration. Players compete for the honour of jumping into the famous Poppie’s Pond (named after Terry Wilcox, the tournament director for many years, who was called “Poppie” by his grandchildren) on the side of the 18th green and, of course, a well-earned fluffy white robe to dry off.

I remember being so excited to play in this event every year. I have always felt that there’s a significant difference between regular and major events — while tournament winners are celebrated, major winners make history.

About six years ago, my team started discussions with both my long-time partner, Rolex, and the LPGA to create an award for just this reason. I could not be more thrilled to have established a way to acknowledge players who perform their best in the biggest events.

The Rolex ANNIKA Major Award (RAMA) recognizes the player who, during a current LPGA Tour season, has the most outstanding record in all five major championships. Points are awarded to competitors who finish among the top 10 and ties. To take home the RAMA, a player must also win at least one of the five majors. Michelle Wie, Inbee Park and Lydia Ko are our previous winners, each of whom were recognized in a special ceremony at the Evian Championship. As we enter our fourth year, tune in to the ANA Inspiration to begin to follow the 2017 RAMA race. If the last few years are any indication, the play will be exceptional and the drama unmatched!

Thanks,

A

By The 2017 European Solheim Cup Captain, Annika

I was just looking through my Colonial scrap book. It’s where I keep all my letters, notes and clippings from my life-changing PGA Tour experience in 2003. It brings back a flood of memories and it’s really cool to see people from so many different walks of life wishing me good luck.

As I turned through the pages, there was one letter in particular that caught my eye. It’s this note from Patty Berg (see below). Yes, that’s right, the one and only LPGA legend Patty Berg. One of the leading players, male or female, in golf’s great history. After an accomplished amateur career, Patty turned professional and racked up 60 wins. They included 15 major championships, a record that will be very difficult for anyone to surpass. Like Ben Hogan, she was involved in a car accident that almost ended her career, but true to her competitive spirit and tremendous passion for the game, she didn’t let it stop her.

Annika Letter

Patty was one of the 13 original founders of the LPGA. This group of extremely driven and talented trailblazers wouldn’t let anything get in the way of their dream to play professional golf. They were like vagabonds, traveling in their cars from city to city to showcase their talents. Many times they would sleep in the car, and fine dining was very rare. Although they didn’t play for a lot of money, their pioneering ways were the beginning of something very big.

More than 60 years later, the LPGA has evolved into a global tour with events on top-rated and immaculately-conditioned courses, TV coverage beamed into millions of living rooms, and purses Patty and friends would find difficult to comprehend.

Next week is the Founders Cup, the LPGA’s first 2017 event on U.S. soil. Was it merely an accident that this letter grabbed my attention, or was it fate?  Whatever the reason, I’m glad it did. It was a timely reminder of the efforts and sacrifices made decades ago that have benefitted all the players who followed in Patty and the other founders’ footsteps. They started something they dreamed about and, thanks to them, we are now living our dream.

Thanks,

A