Juli Inkster: Young and raw US team ready to stand up to Europe

US captain Juli Inkster consoles a tearful Stacy Lewis, one of her wildcards, after the former Women's British Open appeared to hurt herself playing a shot in a practice round at Gleneagles.  Inkster was first on the scene in her buggy before other US players arrived to also give Lewis a hug. Picture: Ian Rutherford/PA Wire
US captain Juli Inkster consoles a tearful Stacy Lewis, one of her wildcards, after the former Women's British Open appeared to hurt herself playing a shot in a practice round at Gleneagles. Inkster was first on the scene in her buggy before other US players arrived to also give Lewis a hug. Picture: Ian Rutherford/PA Wire
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There’s been a changing of the guard in the US ranks since the last Solheim Cup. Cristie Kerr, who had played in every team since 2002 and holds the record for most wins among the Americans, is missing on this occasion, as are two other well-kent faces, Michelle Wie and Paula Creamer.

Lexi Thompson, of course, is no stranger to golf fans on this side of the Atlantic and the same goes for Stacy Lewis after her win in the 2013 Women’s British Open at St Andrews, but there are some newcomers in the US ranks for the match starting on Friday at Gleneagles.

Five players – Marina Alex, Brittany Altomare, Nelly Korda (her sister Jessica is also in the 12-strong line up), Megan Khang and Annie Park – are being blooded by the visitors, with US captain Juli Inkster admitting she is not sure what to expect as they take a step into the known against Catriona Matthew’s European side on the PGA Centenary Course.

“I love my team,” declared Inkster. “We’re young and raw as far as playing overseas. But everybody’s got to be a rookie sometime and I just happen to have five of them at once.

“But they are excited about coming over to play. Catriona has a veteran team and I have a very young team. But they all can play golf and it’s really how you handle it.

“When I was a rookie, I couldn’t sleep and couldn’t wait to get up and put my uniform on and get out there. My thing is not have them wear themselves out by the time you get to Friday because we have a lot of obligations we have to do.

“So my job is to make sure they have lot of fun for five or six days and then get down to business. I know the rookies are nervous, but I like that. They don’t know what to expect and it’s really what you’ve got in your gut how you handle it.”

After leading the Americans to wins at St Leon Rot in Germany in 2015 then in Des Moines two years ago, Inkster now has a chance to re-write the record books by becoming the first captain from either side to record three triumphs and the first US captain to win twice on European soil.

“It’s going to be a very difficult task,” added the 59-year-old, who, like her opposite number Matthew, played in the transatlantic tussle nine times.

“But it’s not really about me. Yes, I’ve captained two winning teams, but they did all the work. I just put them in a 
situation where they could succeed. Can it be done? Yes. But we are going to have to play extremely good golf and be in a really good mindset to overcome all the obstacles – the rain and the wind and the golf course and the fans. We are going to have to be mentally strong.

“I would have to say Europe are favourites, they’re veterans playing on home soil. Okay, they’ve lost the last two, but, for me, it’s a whole new team and I only have a couple who have played more than one Solheim Cup.

“So I have a question mark on how they are going to respond to playing in Scotland in front of those crowds. There’s a lot up in the air – the weather is such a huge factor in everything – and it depends on how they handle it.

I think they have courage to do that. I love the spirit of my team. They’re quiet, but they are confident and we’ll just have to see how it plays out. We could get creamed or we could make a match of it.”

l Juli Inkster is an ambassador for Aberdeen Standard Investments – proud Global Partner of The 2019 Solheim Cup.