It's the final day at the Solheim Cup... it all comes down to this!
As the singles matches prepare to get underway, for my final blog of this year's event I look at why the tournament is so important to me and so many other women golfers, how the event has evolved since it first began and where the tournament may be heading in the years to come.
What Does The Solheim Cup Mean To Me?
The first Solheim Cup I remember watching was at Loch Lomond in 2000, it was the first women’s golf event I had ever seen live on Sky Sports. Annika Sorenstam was at the peak of her powers but I’d hardly seen her hit a golf shot, because coverage of women's events was so limited in those days.
The event was hampered by heavy rain but I do remember a very cool looking Swede stealing the show. Carin Koch wore a woolly hat and had her blonde hair in plaits. She had to hit her 7 wood everywhere due to the course playing so long, but she looked the part and definitely played her part. She won all 3 of her matches and helped Europe beat America 14 1/2 to 12 1/2.
2000 was a big year for me in my golf, I won the English Girls Championship and represented England. I was the best junior female in the country. The Solheim was played in October and I started to think “that's exactly what I want to do”. I was inspired.
The Importance Of The Solheim Cup
As I said, the Solheim Cup was the first women's golf competition I remember seeing on TV and it is still the only event that lets you see every shot live from first to last. There is wall-to-wall coverage over the three days and it even takes priority over the men's coverage.
Many people do not know that the founder of the event, Karsten Solheim, is also the founder of Ping. The family have always been massive supporters of women's golf and they are still heavily involved in the event today, with his children taking over proceedings.
When you think that the first Ryder Cup was staged in 1927, the women then had to wait 63 years until 1990 to get the chance to compete in a similar format.
The Solheim Cup is also a massive revenue earner for both the LPGA and LET tours, it brings in millions of pounds in TV rights particularly for the host team.
How Much Has It Changed Over The Last 30 Years?
The Solheim Cup started in Lake Nona, Florida back in 1990 and just like with the early years of the Ryder Cup, the Americans dominated the event. The European Team didn't event have matching uniforms, they were the underdog in all aspects of the match.
This has changed now with much more preparation going into these tournaments, with each team having an array of outfits, gifts, golf bags and of course, the all-important five star travel and accommodation.
The Europeans still go into most tournaments as underdogs but the matches are often very close, with the Americans holding a 10-6 lead overall.
The infrastructure at the events is the most recent change. Gleneagles set the bar high with the size of their grandstands and hospitality. Having hosted a Ryder Cup back in 2014 they knew exactly what worked and sued many of the ideas from that event.
This year's event at Inverness GC has a 2000 seater stand around the 1st and 10th tees to provide an amphitheatre and a fantastic atmosphere.
Media coverage has also massively improved, with 12 hours a day of live coverage during the weekend and 7 hours on Monday for the singles. Golf channels around the world will lead with the Solheim Cup and many channels will also feature extended highlight packages.
In the 30 years since it first started as a match played around a private club in Florida with few fans, the Solheim Cup has now become one of the biggest and most watched events in golf.
What's Next For The Solheim Cup?
The tournament survived a bit of a lull around a decade ago, where some golf fans were suggesting that the event was becoming a little immaterial as so many of the best players in the world were actually from Asia.
There were talks of a new match forming like the President's Cup involving a 'Rest of World' but nothing has happened as of yet...
The Solheim Cup is the pinnacle of a golfers' career and is the jewel in the crown of both the LPGA and LET plans. The event heads to Spain for the first time in 2023, where it will be played in the Costa Del Sol. Finca Cortesin is the course and I'd recommend anyone to go and book a trip to watch in the Spanish sunshine!
Looking forward, as a proud Englishwoman I'd love to see the match played in England for the first time. We have had so many greats such as Laura Davies, Alison Nicholas and Trish Johnson in the team. How great would it be to see Dame Laura captain Team Europe on home soil?
All that is left for me to say is enjoy the action today. I'll be on the Sky Sports Golf team covering every shot - VAMOS Team Europe!!