Lewis goes home to Ohio for Solheim Cup as assistant captain

Aug 22, 2021, 7:00 PM | Updated: Aug 23, 2021, 7:05 am

Stacy Lewis is returning to her hometown in Ohio for the Solheim Cup, just not as a player.

U.S. captain Pat Hurst filled out her team Monday with four picks, two of them Solheim Cup rookies who have never won on the LPGA Tour.

The 36-year-old Lewis was picked to be an assistant captain and couldn’t have been more thrilled. Lewis was born in Toledo and played a role in getting the biennial matches against Europe to be held at Inverness Club.

The Solheim Cup is Sept. 4-6.

Lewis also held out hope of making the team or doing enough to be a pick. Four players were ahead of her in the Solheim Cup standings, six on the world ranking. Lewis has been part of every team since 2011, having to sit out in 2019 with an injury as a captain’s pick.

“It was a little tough but I also didn’t play good enough,” Lewis said. “If you want to be on the team, you can’t rely on a pick. So I knew I didn’t play the way I wanted to, but to still just be a part of it … and to know I was a part of why we’re there … is still going to be a lot of fun.”

Hurst used her three picks on Brittany Altomare, her second time making it as a captain’s pick, and Solheim Cup rookies Yealimi Noh and Mina Harigae, who have yet to win on the LPGA.

The nine qualifiers were Nelly and Jessica Korda, Danielle Kang, Lexi Thompson, Ally Ewing, Austin Ernst, Lizette Salas, Megan Khang and Jennifer Kupcho.

European captain Catriona Matthew had six additional picks. She used them on Leona Maguire, Matilda Castren, Nanna Koertz Madsen, Mel Reid, Celine Boutier and Madelene Sagstrom.

Maguire (Ireland) and Castren (Finland) will be the first players from their countries to play in the Solheim Cup. Europe is represented by players from eight countries.

Europe’s six qualifiers were Anna Nordqvist, Sophia Popov, Charley Hull, Georgia Hall, Carlota Ciganda and Emily Kristine Pedersen.

Matthew has only five returning players from the European team that edged out the Americans in the final match to win at Gleneagles in 2014. While the Americans have a 10-6 edge in he series, Europe has won three of the last five in the Solheim Cup.

Boutier went 4-0-0 in those matches. Reid played on the 2017 team and was an assistant captain in 2019 to Matthew, who will try to become the first European captain to win twice.

Hurst leaned heavily on Noh and Harigae having played well in the months leading up to the matches. She started paying closer attention to Harigae at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Harigae won four Cactus Tour events while the LPGA Tour was shut down.

“She was kind of on my radar back then,” Hurst said. “I went out on a limb and invited her to one of our team bonding deals, and she was all in for that. She was totally a part of the team and that was great to see. She kind of took off after that. She played well.”

Castren was a longshot to be on the team, even winning her first LPGA Tour event at Lake Merced this year, because she was not a Ladies European Tour member while trying to focus on the LPGA. But she added an LET event in Finland to a crowded schedule and won, earning membership and making herself eligible as a pick.

Normally, telling a player she has been picked for the Solheim Cup is a source of happy news. The awkward moment for Matthew was sharing this with Madsen of Denmark. She was tied for the lead on the 18th hole at the Women’s British Open until hitting a shank from a tough lie in a bunker and making double bogey.

“It was tough telling her afterwards because you could tell she was so disappointed with her finish,” Matthew said. “I think after a couple hours, she’ll realize she had a great finish and it was her first time really up there with a real chance of winning. The boost of getting into the Solheim Cup will hopefully help.”

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