GLENEAGLES, Scotland — This Solheim Cup ended differently than the last two for U.S. Captain Juli Inkster. Her first go-round as captain came in 2015, after the U.S. had lost two in a row. Under her leadership, they were victorious in 2015 and again in 2017.
Yet no American had ever captained three Solheim Cups, much less winning three in a row. But the American players respect Inkster, and a three-peat seemed plausible.
At least it seemed plausible until the final putt in the last match on Sunday at Gleneagles. Veteran Suzann Pettersen made her eight-foot birdie putt to give Europe a one-point victory.
The loss made for a more solemn media conference than those Inkster has had over the last half decade.
“You know what, I told them afterwards, the sun’s going to come up tomorrow,” Inkster said. “It was great for women’s golf. We played great. I mean, yesterday was just a brutal day of golf. And today the sun came out and we saw a lot of great golf. You know what, the Europeans played great. You tip your hat. And you move on to Toledo.”
The loss, while disappointing, wasn’t soul-crushing. Her perspective is one of the things that has made her a great Solheim Cup participant, as a player and captain. She played in nine Solheim Cups, four of them losses, five wins. She knows what losing feels like and understands that the sting is fleeting.
“I’m really happy where I’m at,” she said. “I’ve had the honor to do this three times. And it’s been an honor. And I’m two and one. We’re two and one. I thought that’s been good. I’d be making a lot if I was a baseball player. It’s not really about the wins and losses. It’s about the memories and the camaraderie.
“And that’s what it’s about. It’s about making those friendships and making those memories. And to be a part of a team is — that’s why I do it. That’s why I love to do it.”
It is clear that Inkster does love her role as captain, even in this year’s loss. She has become an institution within the Solheim Cup. The same question that has come up in the last two post-Solheim Cup media conferences came up again this year: Would she be captaining Team USA again, in 2021? The answer was an emphatic, No. But she said she will be onsite at Toledo, supporting the team. For that, her current players are grateful.
“She just encourages us to play with heart and class and integrity,” said Lizette Salas, with Inkster tearing up beside her. “And that is something that — it’s indescribable. And she’s an incredible role model on and off the golf course. And this team is going to miss her.”