Volume 1, Number 13 September 3, 2003
Pages 1, 2, 3

OK, what that suggests is that the First Ladies Cup would need to always include the Americans to work. But then you forfeit some of the truly compelling matchups (Webb vs. Sorenstam for one, Pak vs. Annika for another). And again you end up diluting your product. At any one time, you'll have a few of the top players sitting out one of these competitions. While Pak vs. Inkster would be fun, Annika would be off filing her nails missing out. You'd end up creating two showcases for women's golf, neither one of which showcases the top players at the same time. And that's if you can surmount all the other problems I've already talked about.

OK, so if the First Ladies Cup wouldn't work, then you are faced with changing the Solheim Cup. But then we run into the objections that we are disrupting a longstanding, intense rivalry. Well, first of all, the Solheim Cup is not a longstanding event, having only started in 1990. The rivalry between the two teams has gotten intense, it is true. But it did not take very long for it to get that way. In fact, I would argue that it heated up during the second match, when the Europeans surprisingly won. Trust me on this: the Americans are a competitive bunch. If they start to get beaten by a team of Asians and Australians, they will certainly rise to the occasion, and the rivalry will be there.

But perhaps the most compelling argument is as follows. What do people mean when they say there is a Euro/United States rivalry? Well, they mean that the US has a rivalry with the UK and Sweden, the two teams who have largely dominated the Euro Solheim teams since the beginning. The players from these countries are also the ones who shoot their mouths off in the press, which adds heat to the proceedings. Well, this year we had our first Norwegian and Danish participants ever. Which is great, but the question is: when has Norway or Denmark ever had a golf rivalry with the Americans? The answer is, never. The only reason these players are on the Euro team is because Karsten Solheim arbitrarily decided that the Euro team means all of Europe. So if Greece, or Hungary, or the Ukraine suddenly get a great golfer, those countries too will be able to go to the Solheim Cup.

But here's my point: why arbitrarily add a player from Norway to the team, when you could add an Aussie instead? The Aussies have more in common with the Brits than the Danes or Norwegians do (let alone the Greeks). And unlike all those countries, the Australians have a legitimate rivalry with the Americans in sports, and have been on the scene as powerhouses in women's golf for several years.

What if Se Ri and Grace were on the same team?

OK, so if there is no compelling reason to put a Euro on the team just cause they are from Europe, why is it done that way? Here's the kicker. It's done that way because the men do it that way. That's how the Ryder Cup works. Now, I can think of no worse reason to do something than simply because the men do it that way. The fact is, the situation in men's golf is far different than that in the women's game. The men do have a few top players outside of Europe and America, and that number is increasing all the time. But the women have a huge number of players outside that group, including two of the top three in the world. Yes, perhaps in 1990 it was not that way. But the Solheim Cup does not have to live with the calcified rules set down in another time, because, as I say above, it hasn't been going for that long!

And if you are using the men as your model, keep in mind that the Ryder Cup was for many years US vs. Britain, then changed to US vs. Europe to make it more competitive. And they had a far longer tradition than the ladies do!

OK, so if we change the Solheim to include everyone, then the next question is: how? How do the teams look different?

Well, there are a few ways to do it, each with their own unique strengths and weaknesses. Here they are:

1. Make it US vs. the Rest of the world:
The obvious choice. That way you still maintain the American team, while strengthening the Euro challenge. But you can quickly see the problem here. Just look at this potential International lineup:
Annika Sorenstam, Karrie Webb, Se Ri Pak, Lorie Kane, Mi Hyun Kim, Grace Park, Hee-Won Han, Carin Koch, Rachel Teske.
If that list looks familiar, it's because it reads like a who's who of the top players in women's golf the past two years. In other words, it would be a wipeout! The Euros would become too strong! Other problems with this scheme include that you don't get to see any of the Big Three tee it up against each other, and the fact that several of the Euros would take this as a slap in their faces, a statement that they cannot beat the Americans without help (Laura Davies has frequently said she would not play on such a team). So how about:

Se Ri and Mi Hyun in a best ball game!
How fun would that be?

Imagine the three of them working
for the same goal together!

2. The Americas vs. the Rest of the World:
Not much of an improvement really. Yes, the Americans get Lorie Kane and Lorena Ochoa, but they still have to face the Big Three teamed up. I still think this would be an International cakewalk. So maybe:

3. Make it a three team event: Americas, Europe, Internationals:
This is an intriguing idea, but it would require some thought as to how to change the format. I already said above it wouldn't work to have the Solheim be two of these three teams, with the winner facing the third team, because of logistical problems and the fact that omitting the Americans any year would not work. But what if they all played at once each time? Imagine a setup like this in the team matches. Instead of fielding four teams that go against four Euro teams, the Americans have two that go against the Euros, two against the Internationals in each session. You know that your team will be facing one team or the other, but not who the exact players will be. So do you send your top guns against the Internationals, or save them for the Euros? A new challenge! Similarly the other teams each send half their teams against each of the other teams. So you could get a Webb vs. Annika setup, or Pak vs. Annika. You gain points as before, and the winner is the first team to get to a certain total as before. In singles, half your players play each team, again providing the challenge of, do I send my top guns against the Euros or the Internationals? I think this format could prove to be quite exciting, but there are at least two problems as I see it. One is that the Cup would then only be in America every six years, instead of every four years (assuming that each team takes turns to host it). The other is that you could play really well against one team and still lose the cup. For instance, the Americans could win every match against the Euros, but if the Internationals also win every match against the Euros and edge the Americans head to head, they still win the Cup. A lot of your Solheim fate goes into matches where your team does not play a direct role (you could end up rooting for your enemy to beat your other enemy, so that you can win the cup!). Which leaves us with:

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