Pods, putting and personality tests: Captain Stacy Lewis outlines Solheim Cup vision
The LPGA Tour announced on Wednesday that Stacy Lewis will be leading Team USA at the 2023 Solheim Cup in Spain — which means the countdown Spain can officially begin.
Lewis, 36, brings plenty of experience to the table in the biennial event, contributing as an assistant captain in two competitions and playing in another four. But how will her version of Team USA look as she takes on the role of captain? Here’s what we learned from her first press availability following the announcement.
It’s all about the environment
First and foremost, Lewis said she wants to create an environment that is positive to set up her team for success.
“I want to create a really positive, fun environment where the girls can be successful,” Lewis said.
How does one create that environment? Lewis hinted at accommodating varying practice schedules that match the various personalities on the team, creating more downtime during the hectic week of competition, and administering personality tests to get a sense for the disposition of every team member.
“Most importantly I want these girls to have fun,” she said. “I want it to be a week that they leave there saying, ‘This was the best week of my life.'”
Pods are here to stay
The 2021 Solheim Cup featured captain Pat Hurst implementing a “pod” system to place her players into groups so that the appropriate personalities could team up during the week. That system will once again make an appearance under captain Lewis — with some tweaks.
“I’m going to keep the concept of [pods],” Lewis said. “It definitely works because I do think personality-wise it can be tough at times. But I do need to figure out a way to have some more flexibility with the pairings. It’ll be similar, but it’ll also be a little bit different.
“It kind of goes back to communicating with the players and making sure they know what to expect as far as who they could possibly play with, but I just felt like especially last year, we didn’t have a whole lot of options with our pairings as things kind of started to happen, so that’s going to be something that I kind of work on over the next couple months.”
A playing-captaincy is not out of the question
While rare these days, there are instances in which captains of team events shed the headset and call their own number to suit up (see: Tiger Woods at the 2019 Presidents Cup). At just 36 years old, and with her most recent win coming in 2020, Lewis fits the profile of someone who could be a playing captain. But while her skill-level might fit that profile, Lewis declined to provide a direct answer as to if that possibility is in play.
“I’m not going to say yes or no either way right now,” Lewis said. “If it gets to sometime next summer and my name is still on that points list and I’m in the mix and my team — if I need to build the best team possible and my name is a part of that, then I’ll do it.
“But it’s just going to be a conversation to have with my assistants,” she continued. “If they feel that that’s the right move to make for the team, because I also want to be able to be there for the girls during the event, as well. It’s not a conversation right now, but hopefully I keep playing well and it is a conversation we have to have.”
2021 Solheim Cuppers will (likely) be back
Team USA had a historically strong team heading to Toledo last fall, but all that theoretical firepower still fell short. However, Lewis is still confident most of the players from that squad are in line to make the 2023 team.
“I see the team probably looking pretty similar to Toledo,” Lewis said. “Those players are gaining more experience, and that’s what I think I didn’t realize at Toledo until we were sitting at opening ceremonies was how little experience we really had as a team.”
PGA Tour support is welcome
Bubba Watson generated tons of buzz in Toledo as he was on hand as an unofficial assistant captain for Pat Hurst’s squad. Lewis mentioned she’d welcome the support of men’s players once again, but the team room will be more tight-knit.
“I’d like to get [men’s players involved] as far as having them send videos to the girls and let the girls know that they’re supporting them and things like that,” Lewis said. “Whether they need to be there in the team room, I don’t know about because I really want the team to be those girls, their caddies, their significant others — that’s our team. And I really want them to take ownership of it. But I would love the support of the PGA Tour players.”
Putting will be at a premium
While Team USA has lost the last two Solheim Cups, they’ve still been in it until the very end. In both cases, the Cup has gone to the side that makes more pressure-packed putts. For that reason Lewis is looking for players who can come up clutch in nervy situations.
“It comes down to making putts,” Lewis said. “We didn’t do enough of that at Inverness. That’s what I talked about, being in these last groups and learning how to handle the pressure and the emotions of it. That’s really what the putting comes down to.”
Team USA needs winners
How do you learn how to make putts under the gun? You do it over and over again. And the only way to feel that pressure is to be in contention. Lewis wants players who have won before and know how to get the ball in the hole in big moments.
“You look at your best clutch putters over time, they have a lot of experience winning golf tournaments,” Lewis said. “They’re putting themselves in contention. They’re giving themselves opportunities to win. I look at last year’s European team, and as a team, they had a lot of wins. Whether it be LPGA or LET, they had won a lot more golf tournaments than our team. A lot can be said about having that experience and knowing what that feels like.”