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August 15, 2017
Des Moines, Iowa, USA
THE MODERATOR: I am pleased to be joined by three players from Team USA whom I will introduce. To my immediate left, we have Austin Ernst, a rookie on the Solheim Cup team this year.
And to her left, Paula Creamer, who is making her seventh Solheim Cup appearance with an overall record of 14-8-5. And Cristie Kerr, making her ninth appearance with an overall record of 15-14-5.
I know you guys were able to get out on the course today for your first official practice round.
Paula, first off, just kind of how did it go this morning, and what are some initial thoughts on the golf course?
PAULA CREAMER: It's an awesome golf course. It's definitely a great match play course, just the way it rolls. You can see fairways. You can see greens. So it's going to be really nice just being able to see your other teammates out there as well. Sometimes, in the last couple, you don't ever know what's going on; you don't get to see the other matches.
But it's a fun golf course. It's not too long. But these greens are definitely tricky. And it's going to -- it's good in both formats, which I think sometimes it's a little harder to play alternate shot versus best ball, but I think both of the styles that we play are going to suit our team well.
Q. Cristie, what do you think are the biggest strengths after seeing the golf course that the Team USA has based on the golf course?
CRISTIE KERR: I think our team can make a lot of birdies. And they're setting it up to make a lot of birdies.
It's a spectacular course, very scenic, very rolling hills. I think it will be a great spectator course as well. And we have a lot of long hitters on our team. So that will play into our favor for the par-5s as well.
Q. Austin, this is your first experience, and to be around everybody and be out there today, without a first official practice, what has this experience been like so for you?
AUSTIN ERNST: It's been great. I've played with them the last few days, and Lexi, they've taken me under their wing and told me what to expect, that kind of thing. But I'm ready for Friday to get here already.
I know it's going to be a great week. But, yeah, having them, having Lexi, having obviously Juli, Nancy, everyone on the team, they all lend advice here and there. So I'm ready to get going.
Q. Cristie, nine appearances now, ties for the most by any U.S. player with Captain Inkster. Does this experience ever get old? What is this week like for you?
CRISTIE KERR: Never gets old, unlike me. It's different every time. Obviously the teams are different every time, and the personalities. It keeps me young, I have to tell you that, because I have to keep up with these guys.
But it's also the first Solheim Cup where my son is here. So that's very special. So we have our own team mascot. And it's just great. It really is an exhilarating experience to be a part of. And Juli Inkster, I mean, every captain is very awesome to play under, but Juli's always been one of my idols. So pretty special.
Q. Paula, I know everybody jokes, you don't see bigger smiles out of you than you do this week and what it means. What does it mean to wear the red white and blue to you, and what is so special about being here in Des Moines and hearing about the huge crowds that they're expecting to be out here?
PAULA CREAMER: I think there's no better honor than representing your country. Obviously I come from a military family. So seeing red white and blue and seeing our flag and being able to play for that and the freedom we have, it's just -- it's amazing. It really is so special.
And with what we do and all the stress that we go through, week in, week out, by ourselves, this is a week we actually get to share it all together. And all those feelings and those emotions and those highs and those extreme lows, this week it's all about our friendships.
And sitting even in our delay right now, sitting in the locker room, it's not like people are in corners. Here we are all cramming at one table to sit together.
There's just so many awesome things that we get to do together as a team. And for me that brings, I think, the best out of who I am. And you're not going to play great all the time, but being mentally prepared and going in there, knowing that you're playing for -- we always say playing for the person sitting next to you, it's so true, and that's what this week, I think, amplifies and it's what we do; it's all about the team.
Q. Austin, I know you played on a Curtis Cup team back in 2012. Team dinner last night, you're getting all these team activities, what is it like to be around that group and what has stood out to you about this team environment and what is special about this U.S. team?
AUSTIN ERNST: It's been great. I mean, I know everyone on this team pretty well. We've played together. This is my fifth year on tour. So we've played a lot of golf together. Obviously you see a different side where you get to actually spend time together, where normally we might not go have dinner together every night, or not hang out every night.
I think what stood out is just everybody -- I'm one of three rookies, and literally everyone on the team has come up and said, anything you need.
Obviously everybody has my back, and I've got their back. I might not have any experience with what we're doing exactly, but I've played golf before. I told them last night I'm undefeated so ...
CRISTIE KERR: You are a tour winner as well. Let's not forget that.
AUSTIN ERNST: Great week so far.
Q. The rain might change things some, but Juli had mentioned, everyone talked about the trickiness of the greens. But Julie wanted to say and emphasize a couple times she thought this was more of a second-shot golf course. Depending on how soft things will be today and more rain maybe tomorrow, to what degree would you agree with that assessment or how do you think the course would change if it really stays soft Friday and Saturday, especially?
AUSTIN ERNST: We were talking about it yesterday. You really need to figure out where to place it on the greens, because if you just hit a green, doesn't mean you're going to have a good look.
You could have a putt where it's going to be tough to get it within five, six feet. If you just put it 40 feet on some of these greens. The fairways were really firm yesterday. The greens were already pretty soft. It will be interesting to see tomorrow how soft the fairways get or if they stay firm.
Front nine, especially, we had a bunch of wedges coming in. So if you hit it in a fairway, the ball seemed like it was rolling about 40 yards. So obviously with the rain, that might change exactly what clubs we have coming in. But I agree, it's definitely a second-shot golf course. You need to keep it in the fairway, though, but coming into the greens you really need to be able to put it in the right section of the green.
Q. Austin, about eight weeks ago you were here for media day and you were on the outside looking in. How nervous were you about making this team, and how did it feel to actually get the call to be on this team?
AUSTIN ERNST: I wasn't nervous until Sunday at the British Open. And then I wasn't playing. I didn't make the cut, because up until that point I could have still played my way on the team.
But Sunday I was nervous all day Sunday. And then at about 5:30 I wasn't nervous anymore because I got the nod.
But it's great to be here. But I wasn't ever nervous whenever I could have played my way on the team, but whenever that was taken out of my hands, you never know which way it's going to go. Luckily this time it went my way.
Q. First off, being a rookie, what do you expect the nerves to be like when you step up on that tee on Friday? And then for you two, can you explain what that emotion is like being in that moment on that first tee, packed in, and this year we could have record crowds on that first tee, too.
AUSTIN ERNST: Everybody's told me that you've never faced nerves like we'll face. So I don't really know what to expect. You try to think of -- I try to think of the most nervous I've ever been, I guess multiply that by 10. But I won't know what it's like until I get there on Friday.
Everyone's kind of told me what to expect and how to deal with it. But I kind of know what worked for me when I get nervous. So I'll do that. And I'll see what they say, too.
PAULA CREAMER: We talked about it the other day. And, I mean, this is my seventh one. And every time I'm on that tee box, even if I'm not hitting the shot, I'm nervous. There's just a feeling about it. And I think with the warm-up, all you hear are the chanting and the songs and go USA, go Europe, and then you get to the tee, it's like here we go, and you're in that -- the way they set up the first tee is awesome. They did a great job with the tunnel and just all of the suites and everything.
It's a little different than what we normally have. But it's a great feeling. You don't know unless you're there and how you're going to handle it. But like what Austin said, we're nervous on tees all the time. But try to go through your routine of what you do. But there's nothing like Solheim. So there's a little bit of a difference to it.
CRISTIE KERR: Definitely agree. There's just a lot of adrenalin. And like Paula said, warming up, your rhythm definitely changes on the range on that Friday morning or afternoon, whenever you're playing. And for the rookies, my only advice is to embrace it. Because it's fun. That's why you play this game, to feel those emotions and those feelings.
And like Paula said as well, unless you're there, you don't know how to describe it to somebody. But it's a rush.
Q. Paula, can you take us through the events that led to your being here, obviously being added, because of Jessica's injury?
PAULA CREAMER: Yeah, I mean, nobody wants to see somebody get hurt. I mean, I've been in those shoes before playing in pain is no fun. But I think I have the utmost respect for Jess and making a call pretty early.
It was Monday when she told everybody. You don't want to see that. You want -- she earned her spot on this team. She's played well. And I truly believe she deserves to be here more than anybody. She's played well.
And I think that what she did was brave, too. I know I want to play even if I'm hurt, I still want to get out there. But I was told Sunday that I wasn't on the team, followed by you're my alternate.
It was an interesting feeling. I knew Jess, she obviously pulled out from the British, for her to do that I knew something was pretty serious. And if they needed me I would be there. If I need to come in Wednesday night, I would be here to do that. I would do anything for this team.
But I'm here and, you know, we're all 12 members of the team. Doesn't matter where you stand, how you got here, any of that. You're just a member of the team. So after everything kind of got announced and I put my big girl pants on and I was like, all right, let's go do this, and I'm glad to be here.
My team has all said the same to me, which means a lot, because they obviously had a big choice of who their alternate was when they knew somebody was hurt.
CRISTIE KERR: It doesn't matter how you make the team. You're on the team now. And Paula's got nothing to prove. She won the anchor match in the last Solheim Cup. And nobody believes in her more than this team. And, you know, we're all one unit now.
Q. Paula, just following up on that. For people who might wonder about your form, and you did play well the last two times out, what can you tell them about how your game has come together?
PAULA CREAMER: I've been playing well. I played well the last two weeks over in Scotland. I think that was a really big confidence booster. I definitely have spent hours and hours and hours these last three, four months practicing.
And it was one of those things where the Solheim Cup is so important, it's so big. And it's such an important week to me, and at the same time so is my golf and so is my career long term.
And I knew that I needed to keep continuing with these changes and figure out what we're doing. And I feel great. I'm driving the ball well. I'm hitting my irons really well.
I know I can make big putts whenever I need to; that's never been an issue. And I feel like I'm in total control of where I want to put the golf ball, and I think that's all you need to be on the golf course. And especially in match play, I mean, it's a totally different mindset. Now it's me versus you and it doesn't matter.
For me, I feel good. I feel great, actually. I'm excited. I like that feeling. It's a little different than last time.
Q. Cristie, and perhaps Paula as well, you've said that it's a good thing that this experience never gets old. At what point during the week does it get different? By that I mean, everything's loose and everything is great now, you get to that point on Friday where the nerves hit you no matter what, is it like Thursday, opening ceremony time when you know what the pairings are for Friday, is that when the mind kind of switches over? Or at what point in between now and that first shot Friday do you kind of find the zone that you need for the weekend?
CRISTIE KERR: I've told the rookies this as well: You know, you're here, you're present, you're working on your game. We're working on being together as a team, but it has to be a crescendo. Right? You can't have everything all at once and be burned out and tired for the tournament. And this is how I feel as well. You have to -- we'll have game face on Friday morning.
And that's how I look at it. Try to save your energy until the tournament comes because it's an exhausting week, whether you're 18 or whether you're almost 40. So we feel it. We all feel it, even the European side feels it.
And we just try to build up to a big finish.
PAULA CREAMER: I think opening ceremonies is kind of when everything changes. You walk in with your caddie. You see we're sitting up on the stage. And that's, like, when it's, like, all right, game time, ready to go.
When we're out here, we hardly see them. We only see them at the functions and things like that at night. But out here, we're on opposite sides of the clubhouse. We're out there, have opposite sides of the tees we're on. And you don't ever get to see them until right at the opening ceremony moment, really. So it's more of just pacing yourself.
It's a long week. It's exhausting. I think the only thing that changes now is we want to go to bed earlier, but other than that I think it's pretty much we know what we're doing golf-wise.
Q. Cristie, I think it was you that said that everybody knows what works for them when you're nervous. Could you each say what works for you when you're nervous?
CRISTIE KERR: Drinking wine.
They won't let me do that on the golf course, though.
I mean, I just take deep breaths and I draw on my experience that I've had in the past. And I just try to be really, really determined with what I'm doing. If I'm going at that tree branch, I'm going at that tree branch and try not to see anything else. So that's what works for me.
PAULA CREAMER: I'm similar. I'm all about breathing, couple of hard practice swings. Just to get the nervous energy out. And really just focusing on my target and where I want to hit it and go from there. And then go find it and do it again.
AUSTIN ERNST: Yeah, just take deep breaths. And I try to get really confident over the shot and really commit to it.
Q. How does the mentality change for you guys in this format versus typical stroke play and having to play as a team versus every person for themselves, so to speak?
CRISTIE KERR: That's a good question. You know, I think the more we try to make it the same as we always do it, I mean, the golf doesn't change.
Yeah, you are playing against an opponent. But if we're playing good golf and playing golf for ourselves and our teammates and we're hitting our shot where we want it, rolling the putt with the speed we want it, and we're taking care of our stuff, it doesn't really matter what they do.
So for me I try to make it as similar as possible. When you make it outside the norm, you start playing the opponent. For me, that doesn't really work for me.
Q. Paula, Juli said multiple times she wanted a veteran to be in the envelope. Can you take us back to your first time getting called? I believe it was Beth Daniel you were paired with, and what that felt like on the putting green and getting ready and what was the first hole was like?
PAULA CREAMER: In '05?
Q. Yes. And maybe if Nancy might have said anything to calm you down or anything.
PAULA CREAMER: For the longest time Juli was supposed to be my partner. Juli hurt her finger. I played every practice round with Julie in '05. And we get out there and she couldn't play. And so Beth came out on my back nine and played nine holes with me. She's, like, okay, we're partners. I'm like, oh, my gosh, this is like Beth Daniel.
Juli is my role model and the reason I play golf. So at first I was idolizing that whole thing. Then I get Beth Daniel. I mean, she's intimidating. And here I am, like, this little 18-year-old kid. All right, you're my partner. I'm like, okay, I'll do what you want me to do. So we go out and I thought we were going to walk over to the first tee together.
And I was on the putting green and it was so loud. If you remember, Crooked Stick, it was this narrow little tee shot. And I didn't even have to hit the first shot. I think I was evens. And I was so nervous. I thought we would walk over with the team. I wouldn't move -- I wouldn't move off the green and they were all radioing and walkie talkying, Creamer needs somebody to help her off the putting green. Beth came over. She's, like, what's wrong? Walk with me. You're my partner. Come on. She's like, oh, man, pulls me out on the tee. You rookie. I'm like, I'm sorry. But I was 19. I didn't know what to expect.
And it was probably one of the coolest moments. And it's a long story, but on the first hole, at that time 100 -- between 100 and 110 I didn't like. The first hole, they're doing the yardages, and I had 105 yards. And I'm like are you kidding me, my first shot of the whole Solheim Cup for me is the worst yardage ever. This thing was in the TV tower. It was so gone.
But moments like that we laugh about it now, but I was nervous. I did not want to leave that putting green without my partner. Now all the partners we have, we always walk together over to the first tee. It's like a mandatory thing.
CRISTIE KERR: I think to add to that, like that's going to be one of the biggest things for our rookies is just to try to maintain their rhythm because your rhythm really changes for the matches.
Q. Paula and Cristie, would you speak to momentum in this tournament and also do you scoreboard watch? I know in the normal tournament golfers don't look at the leaderboard but do you guys look on Friday and Saturday and try to derive what's going on?
CRISTIE KERR: I mean, it's hard, because you're trying to control what's in your own individual match. But yeah, I think a lot of us like to scoreboard watch and see kind of where things are at. And it's hard to speak about momentum, because the last Solheim Cup it felt like we didn't have any and then we went out and won.
So momentum is a funny thing.
PAULA CREAMER: Sometimes even when there's all U.S.A. flags up on a board, you want to keep it going or you look at it, you see like it's two and two, two European flags two U.S.A. flags, and you use that as a motivator.
I definitely look at the boards during the Solheim Cup. I want to see how my team is doing. Whereas, in stroke play, I don't ever look at a board. I can only control what I'm doing. But I kind of like to see what's going on, if there's all-square matches, things like that. It's also a nice way to kind of get out of your own little mind there for a while and try to escape and see what else is going on.
CRISTIE KERR: And it was so weird, the last Solheim Cup, because there were no leaderboards. We had no idea hardly what was going on until it got really quiet.
PAULA CREAMER: When it got quiet, I think we knew something was going on.
Q. Juli talked about Lexi being under the weather with a virus. How concerning is that for Team USA that one of the top players is not at the top of her game right now?
PAULA CREAMER: It's Tuesday and Lexi is back, she's trying to get better. I think she'll be fine. She's not going to go out and do anything that's going to cause anything to get -- she was out here practicing earlier. I think it's smart for her to go back -- like we said, it's a long week. No point in being here in the rain delay. I think it's a smart idea. She'll be fine.
Q. Cristie and Paula, you're both on the brink of passing Juli for most points ever by American Solheim Cuppers. Has she brought that up and what would that mean to you guys?
CRISTIE KERR: No, honestly until you just mentioned it, I had no idea. I didn't even know what Paula -- I didn't even know what my own record was. I mean, to me, even if I didn't win one match and we won the Solheim Cup, that would be more important to me than individual records.
It's a team event. It's kind of a cool thing to look at, I think, when your career is over and you're looking at I won this many matches and whatever. But, no, I mean definitely I can tell you it's the furthest thing from Juli's mind or probably our own.
PAULA CREAMER: Same. I actually didn't even know my record until you said it. I mean, I know I've done well here, but number-wise, I didn't know it. But Juli, she'll probably want to be back -- if it gets passed, she'll probably want to come back out on the Solheim and play. You know how competitive she is.
Q. Austin, Paula just kind of talked about her first experience as a Solheim Cup team member. For you, I know you haven't done it yet. But at what point did you first take in the Solheim Cup and kind of know that this is a future goal that I wanted to be a part of? Do you have a moment that you first saw that it really had it click in your head that I sure hope I'm sitting where you're sitting some day?
AUSTIN ERNST: Not that I can think of. I think it's one of those things when you grow up and watch it, you're like that would be so cool to be able to represent the United States and do that.
And I know when I got to play Curtis Cup, that was probably the highlight of my amateur career, just to be able to represent the United States and compete on that team. So I think anytime you have that opportunity, I put this right up there with winning a major.
I think when you look at the end of your career, you look at, okay, how did I play? What tournaments did I win? How many Solheim Cups did I get to play on? How many did we win? I think it's right up there in that category of majors and wins.
Q. With the amount of fans that are expected to come out, how proud does that make you to see how far the women's golf game has come and continues to grow for you guys over the span that you've played?
CRISTIE KERR: It would be -- the crowds are expected to be humongous here. I think that's going to be awesome. I mean, just think of the little girls out there, or even kids that even want to play this game, and think if this is their first experience to golf is the Solheim Cup, like, let's give them a great show. Let's play our hearts out for our countries.
And we cannot thank the Solheim family enough, and obviously Louise, who has just passed, for -- I don't know where the women's game would be without the Solheim Cup. That tells you how much the Solheim Cup has meant to us and to the fans that are coming out this week.
Q. Uniforms, I'm just wondering how important uniforms are to all of you, and have you ever had an item you couldn't stand?
AUSTIN ERNST: I think we're going to look great all week.
PAULA CREAMER: I think our uniforms are great. We're in as much red, white and blue as we possibly can be, which is nice. We do represent our country.
And I think Antigua and our rain gear, Zero -- who is our rain gear, how cool is this, when do we get to have our names on -- it's like a jersey. But it's something that we don't like?
Q. Ever, in the past.
PAULA CREAMER: No, everything is awesome. I think I have everything from every Solheim Cup I played in. I have my golf bags made into, like, barstools.
CRISTIE KERR: I still have to wash a bunch of stuff from the last one, they're in a suitcase in my garage somewhere.
PAULA CREAMER: There's never been anything that I don't like. Sorry.
Q. For all of you here, last year Juli gave out the lunch pails. This year it's hard hats. You guys wore like Converse, Juli Converse shoes to the opening ceremony. Do those symbolic things -- what do they mean to you guys? Do they matter?
PAULA CREAMER: It's special. It's something that we all have as a team. We had our lunch boxes last time and we have hard hats this time. And it's all about doing work. That's what we're here for.
We're all about going to represent our country, play well, play hard, and whatever happens happens. But we're going in, we're going to be strong as we mentally and physically can be.
And all of our things have little Juli touches on them. I mean, who gives out hard hats to a team?
CRISTIE KERR: They're super thoughtful gifts. Super thoughtful gifts. She wants to give us things that we would never usually get that have meaning to her and to the team.
PAULA CREAMER: I've never gotten a hard hat before. So this is pretty good.
Q. Are they red, white and blue?
PAULA CREAMER: They have our names and flags and stuff on it. They're pretty legit hard hats.
CRISTIE KERR: And I have a three-year-old, so it's going to come in handy.
Q. Where would you like to be Friday night after the first day of competition?
PAULA CREAMER: Winning.
CRISTIE KERR: Undefeated.
Q. That's the goal, obviously, but going into Saturday, is it -- I mean, given what you did on Sunday two years ago?
PAULA CREAMER: We want to be leading anytime.
CRISTIE KERR: As much as we can be leading, doesn't matter.
Q. Cristie, some of the players on both teams are too young to have played with Annika Sorenstam or to really have been old enough to really know what she was up to as a great player. When you think about her as a player, what are a couple of things that come to mind?
CRISTIE KERR: I mean, she was very precise and aggressive in her manner of play. She didn't get very emotional.
When her name was on the leaderboard, you knew she was going to have a chance. So she was very formidable.
Q. Is there much banter between the two squads? And I wouldn't expect any trash talking. But I wonder, if you guys talk to one another, will you be talking to the European players and vice versa?
PAULA CREAMER: Of course. It's not like bad or anything like that.
Q. You don't hate each other, obviously.
PAULA CREAMER: No, of course. You want to win, but at the same time you have a lot of respect. They're trying to do the same thing we're trying to do.
Last night was our first party that we did together. And half the team -- we were all intertwined together, talking.
It's hard to get on the team in the first place. And everybody wants to be there. And when you're on it, to have that respect for one another. I think it's important now to keep transcending that to the rookies. They're the ones that are going to keep passing that on, to have respect with one another.
It doesn't need to be war between anybody. It's just go out on the golf course and play good golf. But I think we all are fine. I mean, of course we get our -- whenever we see each other, they'll ask me are you going to wear your red, white, blue outfit? Of course, definitely. Last night I had a stars dress on with shoes, I was a walking flag, but that's what we do this week.
CRISTIE KERR: It's funny little stuff. We're friends with a lot of the players on the other team as well.
And it's funny, because Karine Icher is a friend of ours. And Lola is in the day care with Mason. And Karine gave Mason these two European flags.
And he comes running out yesterday with these two European flags. So it's fun little banter stuff. She said, you got rid of them, I know you got rid of them. I'm like I didn't. And our child care lady, who heads up the program, she said, no, no, we didn't. We put them away. Cristie didn't throw them out. Stuff like that. But of course I'll be giving Lola the American flags.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports