News & Opinion

Inkster plays a hunch with Solheim rookies

Juli Inkster called Sunday her toughest day as a national-team captain when she picked two rookies for her U.S. Solheim Cup team.

After the Ricoh Women’s British Open ended, Inkster passed on the experience of Paula Creamer and selected Austin Ernst and Angel Yin for the American team that will play Europe on Aug. 18-20 at Des Moines Golf and Country Club in West Des Moines, Iowa. 

Yin tied for 11th in the Women’s British Open at Kingsbarns in Scotland, a result that supports Inkster’s instinct about how she can perform on a big international stage. However, Yin, 18, of Monterey Park, Calif., never has competed in anything close to the atmosphere that she will encounter next week in Iowa. Yin, an LPGA rookie, owns $300,264 in career earnings and only three LPGA top 10s, the most recent coming two weeks ago with a T-8 at the Marathon Classic.

“She played a little bit on the LET [Ladies European Tour] last year; kind of got her feet wet,” Inkster said of Yin. “Came over here and has played well. She's a big hitter. Sometimes she misses a lot of fairways, but she's got a good short game and she's a good iron player, and she's fearless. If there's that right pin, she's going for it."

Inkster appears to have selected Yin primarily for her length inside the ropes and her demeanor outside of them. That attitude in the team room can help make the difference in international team play.

Ernst, 25, missed the cut at the Women’s British but has three top 10s this season and one career victory, in 2014.

With solid veterans such as Cristie Kerr, Brittany Lincicome, Michelle Wie and Brittany Lang having combined for 21 Solheim Cup appearances, Inkster could afford to play a hunch or two.

“I have to field the team with not only quality golfers but also people that get along with their teammates,” Inkster said Saturday in an interview on Golf Channel. “I want camaraderie. I want fun. I want people that want to be there and that want to play for the red, white and blue.”

As Yin walked up to the stage as her spot on the team was announced, she carried her phone, like most teenagers. When asked about making the team, she was speechless. The most telling part of that moment may be that Inkster said she sees Yin as a long hitter, yet jovial and easygoing.

“We can tease her a lot, and she can’t say anything,” Inkster said in describing Yin as the team’s mascot.

Now Inkster must mold her 12 women to defend the Solheim Cup. In her own words, the American team appears to be stronger that what counterpart Annika Sorenstam will field for the Europeans. Sorenstam had four captain’s picks and selected Caroline Masson, Anna Nordqvist, Emily Kristine Pedersen and Madelene Sagstrom.

The Americans lead the biennial series, 9-5, but the home team has lost the past two events. Inkster knows that her squad must play good golf or suffer the fate of the past two home favorites.

Yin and Ernst should help lighten the mood, which will assist the captain. And Inkster also had a pre-match game plan for the fans.

“I'd like everybody to wear red on Friday, white on Saturday and blue on Sunday,” she said.  “Red, white and blue. Red, white and blue.”

The teams (listed in order of qualification, with number of Solheim Cup appearances and overall record; * denotes captain’s pick):

U.S.: Lexi Thompson, Stacy Lewis (three Solheim Cups, 4-7-1 career record), Gerina Piller (two, 3-2-2), Cristie Kerr (eight, 15-14-5), Jessica Korda (one, 1-2-1), Danielle Kang (rookie), Michelle Wie (four, 7-7-1), Brittany Lang (four, 5-6-3), Brittany Lincicome (five, 5-11-2), Lizette Salas (two, 1-3-2), *Angel Yin (rookie), *Austin Ernst (rookie).

Europe: Georgia Hall (rookie), Florentyna Parker (rookie), Mel Reid (two, 4-3-1), Jodi Ewart Shadoff (one, 2-1-0), Carlota Ciganda (two, 4-1-2), Suzann Pettersen (eight, 16-11-6), Charley Hull (two, 6-2-0), Karine Icher (three, 5-4-1), *Anna Nordqvist (four, 8-7-1), *Carolina Masson (two, 2-3-2), *Emily Kristine Pedersen (rookie), *Madelene Sagstrom (rookie).

Alex Miceli is the founder and publisher of Morning Read. Email: alex@morningread.com; Twitter: @AlexMiceli