Twenty-one years after playing in the event at St Pierre in Wales, Kathryn Imrie has been tasked by Annika Sorenstam with trying to keep the European team members “loose in the locker room” during this week’s Solheim Cup.
The Dundee woman is one of Sorenstam’s unofficial helpers at Des Moines Golf & Country Club, where she spent part of the final practice day for the event’s 15th staging walking inside the ropes with her long-time friend and former Scotland team-mate, Catriona Matthew.
“I have a role here this week, helper or assistant or whatever it is,” said Imrie, a decorated amateur when she played her golf at Monifieth and a former LPGA Tour winner, having claimed the Jamie Farr Toledo Classic in 1995.
“I played with Annika obviously down the years, including the Solheim Cup at St Pierre 21 years ago, which is pretty frightening, and it’s just helping the captain with her job. I’ve done that sort of thing in college golf when I was at Stanford.”
Imrie was an assistant coach at the renowned California university for three years and returned there in January in a volunteer capacity, her main focus these days being a teaching role at Sharon Heights Golf and Country Club in Menlo Park, California.
“At St Pierre, I remember going in the team room after we hadn’t done so well on the first morning and putting on some loud music to gee everybody up,” recalled the 50-year-old. “I guess that’s what my role is like this week. It’s great fun. I’m just trying to keep the guys loose in the locker room because they’re tense, no matter what they say.
“The atmosphere is great, and Annika’s been amazing. She’s a born leader. A lot of people are surprised at that who don’t know Annika, but I’m not surprised at all. She’s always been very analytical.”
Matthew, of course, is a strong contender for the European captaincy at Gleneagles in two years’ time. “I would be ready to help if she gave me the nod,” said Imrie. “We came through the ranks together and we’re still really good friends. We’d make a good combo, I think. Near home would be perfect. The experience Beany’s had, nine of them now, I played in one and I’ve done this helping stuff six times now, so I’ve got a bit of experience as well. It’s all about getting together and gelling, and I think we’re doing that.”
On the subject of gelling, Kevin McAlpine and Lexi Thompson have done that pretty well since starting their caddie-player relationship earlier in the year, with the former relishing his role in this week’s event, despite being in the opposition camp.
“I’ve never been to a Solheim Cup before, but it should be good,” said former Scottish Amateur champion McAlpine, son of former Dundee United goalie Hamish. “The caddies are involved pretty much. We are all a team and the caddies are out to dinners, breakfast, lunches. We are well looked after.”
McAlpine, who linked up with world No 2 Thompson after setting up base in Florida, got his first look at the course on Monday, so has more work on his hands this week than he did for the Women’s British Open at Kingsbarns, where he started his caddying career.
“The greens are a little tricky on the front nine,” he said. “They are undulating and quick, so you don’t want to short side yourself. The rough is pretty thick, and it’s a pretty long course. But, with her length, Lexi should have a little bit of an advantage.”