TOLEDO, Ohio — Fans started lining up on Dorr Street well before the sun peeked over the horizon. Their voices were ready even earlier.
The destination? Inverness Club. More specifically, the first tee box.
When the doors to the Solheim Cup finally swung open, the sea of red, white and blue spectators hurried in. The music pumped over the loudspeakers as they filed into horseshoe grandstands encircling the first tee. It was soon a packed house.
With every passing minute, the crowd grew more anxious. A small contingent of European fans — mostly comprised of the recently victorious European Junior Solheim Cup team — tried to start a chant in support of their comrades behind the box. Their cheers were swallowed up in an instant.
“USA! USA! USA!”
At 7:35 a.m., the gallery began to buzz as Austin Ernst and Danielle Kang entered the teeing area. It was go-time.
Newly crowned Women’s Open champion Anna Nordqvist struck the first official shot of the event, punctuated by an early tee grab as her ball reached its apex. If the Solheim Cup veteran was nervous in the raucous atmosphere, she hardly showed it.
When it was Danielle Kang’s turn to hit, the crowd fell silent as she addressed her ball. She backed off, looked at the fans and gestured for more noise. They obliged with hearty cheers. When Kang’s driver contacted the ball, they erupted.
The Solheim Cup was officially underway.
On the first Saturday of college football, it’d be difficult to picture a more raucous venue in America than the one on the first tee at Inverness. Out with the golf claps and whispers, in with the hoots and hollers.
Amanda Balionis served as emcee and made sure to keep the crowd energized between groups. She took song requests from Team USA’s assistant captains as fans danced above them. The usual “quiet please” signs were tossed aside. New ones read “get loud.”
If the hordes of bellowing fans hadn’t given it away, the signs did: this ain’t your typical golf tournament.
Match two brought in the star of the show — the best player in the world, Nelly Korda.
It’s been a summer of dominance for Korda, winning three times, including a major and a gold medal, and ascending to No. 1 in the world. The fans showered her (and her sister/playing partner Jessica) with adoration as she stepped to the tee.
“Next on the tee for the United States, world No. 1 — Nelly Korda!”
The gallery reached a fever pitch. American flags waved. Korda used her picture-perfect swing to send the ball soaring down the fairway. She twirled the club, snatched her tee from the turf and walked down the hill toward the fairway. The throngs exploded.
Bubba Watson appeared on the tee box, and Balionis began interviewing with the two-time Masters champ about his experience as a pseudo-assistant captain for the Americans.
“I think it’s important for the world to see that these girls have just as much talent, if not more, than we do,” he said.
Then came Lexi Thompson, playing in her fifth Solheim Cup. Taking a page out of Kang’s book, she pleaded for louder cheers before she hit.
Thompson sent the ball soaring into the distance and walked after it. The crowd filed out of their seats and dispersed onto the course to follow the rest of the morning foursomes in the first session of the event. For the first time in a long while, silence fell upon the first tee.
Welcome to the Solheim Cup.