Content provided courtesy of Rolex, an international partner of the Solheim Cup since 1994
Stacy Lewis, the captain who will lead the American team this week against Europe in the Solheim Cup, spoke with Rolex about her longstanding relationship with the Swiss watchmaker and her preparations for the match on September 22-24 at Finca Cortesín in Casares, Spain. Lewis, a 13-time winner on the LPGA, including two major championships, played in four Solheim Cups and was No. 1 in the Rolex Rankings on two occasions for a total of 25 weeks in 2013-14. Here is a portion of that conversation:
Rolex: You are the youngest American captain in Solheim Cup history and the second youngest overall. How proud are you of this? And do you enjoy the leadership responsibilities?
Lewis: I did not expect to be chosen as captain for Team USA this time last year. At first, I was slightly concerned that I may have been stepping on someone’s toes and that there might be someone ahead of me. However, it is such an honor to have been picked by the committee and the LPGA Tour, and to have had the support from the rest of the American players.
Throughout the past year, I have really enjoyed meeting with and learning from past captains on their previous strategies. It has been great to pick their brains and dissect what worked and what did not work.
All of the past 12 Solheim Cup captains have been women that I have looked up to my entire life. It is such an honor to have joined that list. It still feels quite surreal, to be honest.
Rolex: As captain, how important is it for players to feel comfortable during such an intense and thrilling week? How do you intend to go about achieving this and creating a harmonious environment that will enable the players to go out and perform to the best of their abilities?
Lewis: It is important to dedicate time to getting to know the players, to understand what motivates them, to identify their strengths and to figure out what coaching they will require throughout the week.
While we are coming together as a team, players are still individuals and are hitting golf shots by themselves. It is important to focus on their individual needs and create an environment that will help them feel comfortable and capable in. It is important to ensure that they arrive at the Solheim Cup feeling prepared.
Another important aspect is nurturing a successful team environment and highlighting that the common goal of competing is to reclaim the Solheim Cup. My No. 1 goal is to ensure that all the players constantly support one another and are rooting for each other to make the winning putt, rather than solely focusing on themselves.
Rolex: Having represented the USA at the Solheim Cup four times as a player (2011, 2013, 2015, 2017), can you describe the emotions and feeling of representing the U.S. team?
Lewis: It is such an honor to represent one’s country. It is important to remind yourself of the bigger picture, that you are one of 12 best players out of the millions that live in the United States of America. I have never taken my participation at a Solheim Cup for granted. I am sure the team will feel the same honor as I did. It is such an honor to attend the event. From the opening ceremony to wearing the Team USA kit every day during the week, it is such a special experience.
What also makes the Solheim Cup special is that the fans are not supporting and watching you as an individual but because you are representing Team USA. At every Solheim Cup that I have attended, I have always had this amazing realization when I see the flags go up during the opening ceremony that I am representing the USA. It is a special moment and unique experience. You can reflect on all the preparation that you have gone through, but from then on it becomes very real as the matches are announced. That is the moment where it really sinks in that you are at the Solheim Cup.
Rolex: You have been on the winning side twice in 2015 and 2017. Is there one particular win or playing experience that stands out for you?
Lewis: Winning the Solheim Cup in 2015 at St. Leon-Rot in Germany was a unique experience and one that will remain with me forever. During the tournament, the whole team was so in sync, and we came together so well on the Sunday morning of the tournament. Everybody had their own motivation heading out to play, but the way we all came together to protect our rookie (Alison Lee) was particularly special. The celebration after winning my first Solheim Cup is something that I will also never forget. As with everything, there have been some lows, but definitely plenty of highs like that moment. It was equally and incredibly special to witness and support my best friend Gerina Mendoza (Piller) making the winning putt in 2015.
Rolex: This year’s edition is being held at the Finca Cortesín, Spain. Have you had much experience playing this course before? If so, can you give us any insight into how the course might be set up, what the conditions might be like and the atmosphere at Solheim Cups?
Lewis: As a team, we visited Finca Cortesín to scout around the golf course to understand and analyze the lay of the land. During our visit, I played the golf course twice and introduced myself to everyone that will be helping with the Solheim Cup.
It is a beautiful location. The golf course itself is going to be a pretty difficult walk for the viewers. In terms of the players, the course is slightly shorter to what most of us are used to. The first hole is a drivable par-4 which sits up high in place and approximately 20 yards downhill. The first tee will be incredible, and I am sure that the atmosphere will not disappoint with the stands being high up. The condition of the golf course and greens was perfect when we visited. The biggest challenge may be that the courses are laid with Bermuda grass, so I will ensure that my players are prepared for that and are ready to chip off those tight lies.
The advice that I would give to rookie players is that everyone on the team has felt and experienced that – including the nerves and inevitable hand trembles that you experience while teeing up the ball. It is definitely one of the hardest tee shots that you will ever hit as a player. Despite this, there are ways of appreciating and enjoying the moment. It is important to understand that you will hit some questionable shots but you will also hit some of the greatest shots in your career. Those are the moments that you will remember – not the mediocre ones.
I love team competitions in golf and it is so special playing with a partner. You truly embrace the differences from the tournaments that you are used to week in and week out.
Rolex: How – if at all – does your preparation change when competing in team competitions like the Solheim Cup in comparison to individual competitions?
Lewis: When the players arrive at Finca Cortesín, they will be out on the course examining it. One of the major changes for the captains is the discussions and decisions regarding the pairings of players. It is important to take into account every individual’s respective strengths and weaknesses. You cannot forget to evaluate the rhythm of playing an alternative shot and ensuring that players are prepared for and used to not hitting every shot during the tournament. Ahead of the Solheim Cup, we fortunately have other team competitions that allow players to get used to the team’s dynamics and the playing strategy.
Rolex: You have achieved so much in your career to date, with 13 wins on the LPGA Tour and notably two major championships – the 2011 Kraft Nabisco Championship and the 2013 Women’s British Open. What do you consider to be your personal highlights? Is there one particular victory that stands out the most?
Lewis: The victory that stands out for me is the 2013 British Open at St. Andrews. Another highlight would be winning in Scotland after I gave birth to my daughter. Those will always remain the most special to me and my career. Additionally, achieving the World No.1 ranking was something that I could only dream of accomplishing when I first turned professional.