Pat Hurst, the new US Solheim Cup captain, insists the “sting” from a painful defeat following a dramatic end to last year’s match at Gleneagles didn’t last long, thanks to her predecessor, Juli Inkster.
Bidding for a “three-peat” in the biennial event, the Americans were denied at the death against Catriona Matthew’s European team in Perthshire as Bronte Law and Suzann Pettersen won the last two matches on the course on a gripping final day.
After Law beat Ally McDonald on the 17th, it all came down to the game between Pettersen and Marina Alex, with the Norwegian holding her nerve to clinch a sensational victory by sinking a six-foot birdie putt.
“The sting didn’t last very long,” Hurst told The Scotsman after being announced as Inkster’s successor for the 2021 match at Inverness Golf Club in Toledo, Ohio. “There is a disappointment but, before the closing ceremony, we all huddled up and Juli in one of her speeches basically said how proud she was of the team.
“She said ‘there’s nothing to be ashamed about, she [Pettersen] made the putt, and it was awesome. So stand tall, you guys played great, the sun will come up tomorrow, and life will go on’.”
Hurst, who played in the match five times, including four victorious teams in 1998, 2000, 2002, 2005 and 2007, before serving as an assistant captain to Inkster on three occasions, will be locking horns with Matthew after the North Berwick woman was re-appointed by the Ladies European Tour in November.
“She did an awesome job at Gleneagles,” said Hurst, a six-time LPGA winner, of fellow 50-year-old Matthew. “For her to win basically close to her hometown is awesome. I think we started out on Tour maybe the same year, in ’95 I think we were both rookies, so we go back a little ways. We’ve always respected each other quite a bit, and I think it’s going to be the same way at the Solheim.”
Since the match in Scotland, the Ladies European Tour has been handed a massive boost by effectively merging with the US-based LPGA. The exciting development is set to guarantee more playing opportunities for European players on their home circuit, with LPGA-based players having formed the backbone of recent Solheim Cup teams.
In some respects, the Americans could be viewed as being in danger of shooting themselves in the foot through the venture when it comes to the Solheim Cup, but Hurst is confident that will not be the case for her captaincy.
“A lot of the players for Europe play on the LPGA anyway, and they’ve changed the criteria on how they get on the team,” she said. “They have changed that within the last couple of times. I don’t think it’s going to be a big difference that they are merging. You know, I think it just gives them more of an opportunity to play, which is great. That’s the main thing.”
Hurst, who was an assistant captain along with Nancy Lopez and Wendy Ward at Gleneagles, is hoping for a seamless transition as she steps up into the firing line to take over the reins from Inkster. “I learned a lot from Juli,” she said. “In Germany (when all hell broke loose after Pettersen upset the Americans by claiming a putt had not been conceded), she kind of just said, ‘you know, it’s over and done with, we know what we have to do, let’s go out and play’. I also learned a lot from last time in Scotland.
“Our personalities are pretty close, but we have our own little differences, our own little things. There’s little things that are going to be different. The way I communicate with them is different. We’re not exactly the same in that sense, but we are in how we think. So it’s just the way you communicate and how much I’m going to be out there with them and trying to get to know my team.”