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August 15, 2017
Des Moines, Iowa, USA
THE MODERATOR: Welcome to the opening press conference of the 2017 Solheim Cup here at Des Moines Golf and Country Club. We're very pleased to be joined by U.S. team captain Juli Inkster who is returning for her second stint at captain after a successful run in 2015 with an amazing come-from-behind victory. I have to ask you, you keep seeing all the video replays and all the highlights back from 2015, have you started reliving that moment?
JULI INKSTER: No, I haven't. It's a whole new year. Different team. Those are great memories, memories I'll never forget. Memories I'm sure my team will never forget. But we're really focused on 2017 this year.
THE MODERATOR: How does it feel to be back as captain? It's gotta be a little different probably than the first time in Germany.
JULI INKSTER: Yes, I really didn't know what to expect as a captain. And you really don't know about your leadership skills because you always have been a player. And so I learned a lot about myself. I learned a lot about my team.
And so it's a little different. I think the team knows what to expect. Even though we do have a few rookies on our team, you know, they've been a lot more -- I don't really have to tell them a lot. They kind of know what I expect. And they've been great. It's been a lot of fun so far.
THE MODERATOR: You've spent quite a bit of time here in Des Moines, coming back many trips, been out here at this golf course. What can people who are coming out this week really expect from the golf course and from this community who haven't been here in Des Moines before?
JULI INKSTER: It's an amazing community. It's a great state. They're so behind women's golf and the LPGA. And I've met a lot of super people and you kind of build those bonds coming back and forth. But the community here is on point. They've been very supportive. Really Chris Garrett and his team -- Chris moved his whole family here and they've really welcomed him. And it's been fun to watch this thing grow from three years ago to where it is now.
THE MODERATOR: Questions?
Q. Were there any surprises when you got on site here as to the shape of the golf course for you? Being as dry as Iowa has been, still seems to be pretty moist out there?
JULI INKSTER: Yes, it's lush. I mean, I have to say -- the fairways have a little bounce to them. The greens are receptive. The rough is up. But it's pretty generous off the fairway. You've got a lot of little doglegs. You've got some short holes, you've got some long holes. You've got five par-5s. So, I think you're going to see some birdies out there which I think is fun in match play. I think that's what you want to see.
So I'm looking forward to it. It will be interesting how our staff sets it up. But they usually do a pretty good job. So Friday will be fun.
Q. What were your practice round pairings and what kind of strategy do you have when you set up those pairings?
JULI INKSTER: Well, they're kind of right now all over the place. But I put them in their little groups again, so they're out there practicing together in their groups. They're trying to play a little bit of alternate shot within the team, a little bit of best ball.
But I have Austin and Paula and Cristie and Lexi in one group. And I have Gerina and Stacy and the two Brittanys in one group. And I have the minority group -- I have Lizette and Danielle Kang and Michelle Wie and Angel Yin in one group. They call themselves that. I don't call them that.
Q. By group you mean their pod?
JULI INKSTER: Yes, that's kind of who they hang with. They'll play within that group.
Q. So two years ago you gave them a lunch pale to go to work. Any gifts this year?
JULI INKSTER: This year I gave them a hard helmet to go with their -- a hard hat to go with their lunch pail. It was pretty cool. I gave it to them last night and they were all wearing it. It's good.
Q. When you're working with the younger players who haven't really been a part of this very much, since you've been a part of it so long and you have other veterans, what do you tell them or how do you try to prepare them for what they're going to go through this weekend?
JULI INKSTER: Well, you know, everybody's a rookie once. Everybody goes through it differently. Everybody either embraces it or is nervous or anxious. They're going to have to figure that out for themselves.
I basically let the veterans in the group talk to them. I think coming from them it means more. I try not to get too much in their mind because when it comes to it, it's just hitting, hitting shots and playing.
You don't want to overwhelm them. You've got to let them figure it out themselves. So I kind of really stay out of it. If they have questions I'll be more than happy to answer them. But I leave that to the veteran leadership on my team.
Q. How is the squad's health? How is everybody feeling?
JULI INKSTER: Lexi's got a virus. She's had a sore throat for the last three days. She's just hitting a few shots out there. She's been under the weather. I'm a little worried about her. Everybody else seems to be in good shape.
Q. What challenges came for you when you had to make that alternate decision and go through that process?
JULI INKSTER: Well, I didn't really know -- I knew the extent of Jessica's injury, but I didn't know the extent-extent. I knew she took two weeks off after the Open, didn't hit a shot. Came to the British Open. She said she felt good Monday, felt great Tuesday, felt great Wednesday. And then she hit a shot out on the golf course on Thursday and reinjured it.
So that was a little scary to me, because she did say she felt so good. And then she hit one shot and she was back to where she was. So I was a little worried about that because really in something like this you need 12 healthy bodies. You need someone that can also go 36 holes. And I just didn't want her to come Thursday and hit a shot out of a thick rough or something and then not be able to go.
So we had a talk. She had an MRI on Friday of the British. And she said she'd let me know on Monday when she got the results. But really a couple hours after -- so my process, my thinking was, okay, I need someone that's been there, because if Jessica pulls out on Tuesday of the Solheim Cup and I fly someone in that's never been in that situation, it could really be tough on them. I don't want to put someone in a situation where I don't think they can handle it.
So basically I was really between Paula and Angela Stanford. And I just felt Paula was probably playing a little bit better and has played on more Solheim Cup teams. Her record's a little better. And she's really good in alternate shot, that I could come and put her in in any pod or anything and she would be able to adapt.
And so that was kind of my thinking. And so I got done announcing the team. And no one really came up to me and said who is your alternate. And so I thought -- because I didn't know when Jessica was going to tell me. I thought I better tell somebody I told Matt Haas of the LPGA, and two hours later, Jessica called me said she got the results back and she has a tear in there, and it's going to take rest and that she wouldn't be able to play. That's the Readers Digest version.
Q. Following up a little bit about Paula, you know, between her getting introduced to the Solheim with you and being paired with you for three straight Cups, I think, six matches and team play, your guys' mutual California background, is there just a natural -- besides the playing capabilities and her experience -- is there just a natural comfort with Paula that made her a really strong and worry-free, I guess, choice for you?
JULI INKSTER: I don't think it has anything to do with California. I don't really think it has anything to do with us playing together.
I know what I'm getting with Paula and I know -- not that I don't know what I'm getting with Angela, too -- but I just felt like if I asked her to do it, she would do it. And it's not the best situation to be in, because I had to tell her I didn't pick her and I had to let her yell at me for a little bit. And then I told her but would you -- and she said yes.
But I just felt like she would be the one to come in and she's used to kind of being under the microscope and under the pressure and I just thought she could be able to handle it.
Q. The team aspect of this event, how does that change the pressure and does it add pressure to the players? And as a captain do you see it?
JULI INKSTER: No, I really think -- it scares me a little bit -- they seem very loose, relaxed. They know what they're doing out there. The bottom line is they just have to play golf and they've got to make some putts. But they seem to know what to expect. I think it's going to be -- with this golf course, I think it's going to be a lot of fun to watch. I think everybody is going to really enjoy it. I think there's going to be a lot of birdies out there. A lot of fire power out there.
And I'm happy to be part of that. I think it's great for women's golf. I mean, really that's the winner of this, is having all of you out here covering it and showcasing women's golf.
Q. What kind of reaction do you expect Suzann Pettersen to receive out here this week from the galleries? And what kind of reaction do you hope she receives?
JULI INKSTER: You know, I really don't think it's going to be a big deal. I know it's not on our side. If anybody can handle it, it's Suzann. But I hope they don't heckle her. I hope they respect her and respect her play. And it was two years ago, we've moved on and I'm sure she's moved on too.
Q. And a strange way, would it not? Kind of helped you and your team if she was under increased pressure. Would that be a benefit to you?
JULI INKSTER: I don't think anything really affects Suzann. I don't think it's going to be a big deal one way or the other.
Q. Obviously the record-setting comeback two years ago to win the Cup, you'd rather not be in that position again on Saturday night. What will make you happy Friday after the first day is done? What are you hoping to accomplish with the team Friday?
JULI INKSTER: Well, if we could be tied that would be awesome. I was kind of looking at our four-ball and our best ball, I mean, our foursomes and our four-ball, what one do we do better, what one -- and we equally suck at both of them. So I don't think it really matters.
But if we could be tied going into Sunday I'd be ecstatic, but it never seems to be that way. So we know we usually have to come from behind. But it would be nice not to have to do that.
Q. Two questions, what was the team's reaction to Paula being the name in the envelope? Did you get text messages and phone calls?
JULI INKSTER: Yeah, I mean, everybody had thumbs up, fist pump. They were all for it. They got it. They knew -- I think they really knew I put her in the hat before they knew. She was just the best possible candidate for that.
Q. And you were obviously in the booth during the girls junior with the odd concession controversy and then obviously a little bit different than Solheim two years ago, but will you talk about concessions with your team?
JULI INKSTER: I think the rules committee is going to do that today, this afternoon. I mean, I just think you've got to have one person in the group, they're in charge of giving putts. And that's kind of the way I've done it with my team. One person takes control of giving the putts and that way we don't really have any controversy.
Q. Have you already talked to them about that?
JULI INKSTER: Yes.
Q. Everybody seems pretty nice and relaxed so far in the pods. And it's the early part of the week, learning the course, having fun. At what point for you do you feel like the environment and the emotions kind of change? Is it opening ceremony? When do you kind of see the pressure ratchet up or the game face kind of come on for the week?
JULI INKSTER: I would definitely say for me, as a player, when I'm sitting up on that stage and they start announcing the pairings and you know who you're going to play. I think that's when everything is it's, like, okay, the party's over, we really need to get to work. And like you say, everybody is loose and relaxed and hitting some great shots. But come Friday it's a little different.
Q. I know that Suzann spoke to Annika after the match. But have you ever spoken to Suzann on a one-to-one basis about what happened?
JULI INKSTER: In '15? Yeah, I spoke with her Monday morning right after Sunday night. So we had a nice chat and really I haven't brought it up since and she hasn't either. So, you know...
Q. And had you been the one in that position, how would you have felt going into another match? Would you have been able to put it behind you, because she didn't actually do anything that was wrong, Suzann?
JULI INKSTER: I think we might disagree on that a little bit. Me personally, I wouldn't have handled it very well. Are you saying if I was in Suzann's shoes or if I was in Alison's shoes?
Q. Let's try both. Because we don't -- Alison didn't seem to know she was doing the wrong thing about occasionally picking up putts?
JULI INKSTER: If you watched it, there's not one person that's standing there staring at Alison, like, mark it. Everybody's walking off the green and everybody was -- it was a good, I want to say three seconds, three to four seconds before Alison really went over and picked the ball up. It wasn't like the junior where she just hit the putt and went and picked it up. She was, like, oh, I can't believe I missed that ball and then walked around and then she picked it up.
So it's 2015. I don't know why we're talking about it. But I would have never said that. But that's just me personally.
Q. I think other people were looking at what her playing companion was doing, and she looked slightly surprised that the girl would have picked it up. That's why I suggested it. Brittany looked surprised that Alison had picked it up.
JULI INKSTER: I think she looked surprised when Suzann said I didn't give it to you.
Q. I thought she looked surprised more immediately but maybe I'm --
JULI INKSTER: We can hash this all day long, but it's never going to -- it's over with. It's done. Our team is not even talking about it. And I'm sure the European team's not talking about it. I'm not really sure why we're talking about it.
Q. Obviously Thursday and then into Friday it's all business. Have you encouraged the team to do anything fun while they've been here the first part of the week -- has there been any chance to get outside of the hotel and the course?
JULI INKSTER: We all went out to dinner last night. Went to a place called Centro. We walked down there. We had a nice dinner. We had a little speaker last night. We had a little ping-pong round-robin going, caddie and player but they can't be the same caddie and player. We're just kind of hanging out, just tonight we're having a little barbecue out here, try to get them out of the hotel a little bit.
Q. Whose game fits this course? I'm not necessarily talking about singling out any individual, but what kind of game do you have to have to be successful on this course as you've had a chance to look it over?
JULI INKSTER: I think it's a second-ball golf course. I mean, the greens are pretty undulated. If you can get your ball close to the hole and take out a little bit of that break on the greens, I think that's important. So I think you hit your iron shots good and get a little less long of a putt, I think that bodes well for this golf course.
Q. Perhaps a bit speculative since we don't know how much it will rain tomorrow, but the forecast looks pretty grim, will that change, will that statement change at all if the golf course stays soft through Friday, Saturday, or does that put even more emphasis on the approaches if things are going to stick?
JULI INKSTER: It will probably change it a little bit. But I still think it's a second-ball, high-ball hitter golf course. You want to be coming in from the air. My whole team got out here Monday and they all played 18. If we have to take tomorrow off, we feel like we're okay with that.
Q. Who did you bring in to speak last night?
JULI INKSTER: Do I have to tell you?
JULI INKSTER: I don't want to tell you. I gotta keep something secret.
Q. Do you have your pairings figured out; how far do you have your pairings figured out at this point?
JULI INKSTER: I kind of have a rough draft of where I want to go with it. Especially the first day. The second day I think it will depend on how the first day goes. But I feel like I've got where I want to go with it.
Q. When you hear there's a potential for record crowds this week, what's that mean to you as a captain of Team USA being on home soil, seeing this type of support for your players?
JULI INKSTER: I think it's great for women's golf. I'd love to see everybody pack it in. I think they're going to be very cordial to the Europeans. Our job is to put some birdies on the board and put some red on the board to give them a chance to clap.
The Europeans' job is to put more birdies on the board and to get it a little bit quiet. But I think the winner is going to be women's golf, because I think the more people you get out here, it's a golf course that's not a lot of property. Everything's kind of in there. And you put 20 to 25,000 people out here, it's going to look like a lot more. And I think it's great for the ladies, European team and the LPGA to play in front of this many people, it's going to be great.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you.
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