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August 19, 2009

Beth Daniel


MIKE SCANLAN: We'd like to welcome U.S. captain Beth Daniel to the interview room. Thanks for coming in. Obviously you have the credentials of a World Golf Hall-of-Famer and now you've moved on after a couple of years of retirement to leading the U.S. Team. If you would, just talk a little bit about being the captain, what this week has been like for you and just some general thoughts on the event.
BETH DANIEL: Well, obviously I'm excited to be here, be the captain that represents these 12 great players for the United States. It's been a lot of fun so far this week. It's also been a lot of stuff going on behind the scenes. I've never dealt with so much stuff. I feel like I'm running a golf tournament this week, pretty much, and it's like Kelly and Meg and I just decided that we can now run the LPGA Tour because we know how to do it.
But it's -- yeah, it's just a lot of things that go on behind the scenes that people don't realize that you have to deal with, players' needs, and just arranging press conferences for everyone, and practice rounds and those kind of things. That's probably been one of the hardest things is to try and -- because we turn in a practice round roster every day, or every night, and coordinating that, where they're playing, around when they're doing their media obligations, so it's a very different week for the players and for us as captains.
That's why I think it's so important that, you know, if you're going to be a captain or assistant captain, you really need to have some past experience in this, to understand what's going on, and I have six years and six times, and Kelly has eight times in Meg has eight times and myself, once as an assistant captain. So we've been through it. We know what the week's like, and we can kind of help our players through it that way.
MIKE SCANLAN: Questions for Beth?

Q. Beth, this is the longest course in the Solheim Cup, and with the heavy rain over the weekend, playing even longer the first two practice days. Just wondered if you thought the length suited one team more than the other.
BETH DANIEL: I would say that advantage is almost to Europe. I think Europe is a longer team than the United States. They have been -- they were in '07, they were in '05. So the length of this golf course probably does favor Europe a little bit.

Q. Beth, what concerns you about being heavily favored?
BETH DANIEL: Are we heavily favored?

Q. I think so.
BETH DANIEL: Well, you know, I don't think any of us have seen -- today's the first day I asked for newspapers in our team room.
So we got a national U.S. paper that had nothing on Solheim Cup in it, so we didn't get to read anything from that paper. It had an article on Fred Couples, who is the captain of the Presidents Cup, but nothing about the Solheim Cup. So that was a little interesting.
But maybe we should get the local papers instead. (Laughs.) That was disappointing, I must say. Sometimes you think you're bigger than you are.
But you know, none of us really have read much about whether we're favored or not favored, and you know, the perception in our team room is that we have to play our best golf to beat this team. And we do.
Match play, anything can happen. One putt can swing the momentum one way or the other. If you look back at past Solheim Cups, I think you can go back and pick out a putt on a Friday afternoon or a Saturday that literally turned the entire match around.
And we just have to be on our toes, and we know we have to play our best game. Europe has two major champions to our one. So you know, they have more major championships than our team does this year.
But you know, I can't really control Europe. I don't want to control Europe. I can only control what happens in our team room and how our players react to that and try to get them ready to play their best golf this week.

Q. Beth, can you share your philosophy on partnerships? Do you believe in playing players with similar games together, in best ball, for example, or opposite dissimilar games? Do you have a thought on what works best?
BETH DANIEL: Yeah, I definitely have a philosophy. I'm not sure I want to share it because it may give away who I potentially could partner. But I mean I -- yeah, I have very strong feelings about how you play foursomes and how you play fourball, and I will implement those strategies. So when you guys hear the pairings tomorrow afternoon, you might figure it out a little bit.
It's such a combination, though. You can have this philosophy, but then you might have two players that fit that and their personalities don't fit at all. So it's a combination of all kinds of things.
I think personality matches are big. You can't have somebody out there that's like, you know, likes to sort of lay low with someone that's like getting the crowd to cheer and pump up because that's going to fire that person up too much, and then the person who's, you know, kind of sedate might not let the person who likes to go rah-rah do that as much, so personality is a big issue.

Q. Do you like what you've seen so far from your team? Even maybe specifically the rookies in terms of how they've matched with the veterans and even the way they're striking the ball?
BETH DANIEL: Yeah. I've been very pleased with how the players are playing out there and how they're playing this golf course. I think the practice round that we had after the British Open was very important to us. It got us -- right after the team was named, it got us all here together as a team, playing the golf course and bonding, having dinner together.
Quite frankly, I was a little concerned that this team might not bond. It's been unbelievable. I mean, they -- it's just beyond all my expectations of how this team has come together. And it's been great. It's been a lot of fun. I mean, we went off campus last night for dinner, and you know, had some players stand up and say some things, some inspirational things, and I mean it was just -- it's been fantastic. It really has.
I've gotten to know a couple of the players -- well, for instance, Kristy McPherson is from my native state of South Carolina. She won the Junior Player of the Year award the first two years that I sponsored it and gave it out, in '97 and '98. So I've known her since she was a teenager, but probably because of that, she's never really opened up to me, and she is like one of the most fun people I've ever met in my life. And the team -- I mean she's keeping the team really loose. So she's been great.
And you know, and all of us on the inside have known Michelle Wie, how she really is. She's very different from her media perception. And you know, Michelle's just great. I mean, so there's a lot of laughter, a lot of ping-pong, pool games. You know, we've got the Wii system in our team room. So we got all kinds of competitions going on at night, and it's just been a lot of fun.

Q. Why were you concerned that the team wasn't going to bond? And you just mentioned Michelle. How much pressure does it take off of her, knowing, and the other rookies, too, that they don't have to do everything, that even if they hit a bad shot, somebody else has their back as opposed to just playing on her own?
BETH DANIEL: I'll answer the last question first. You know, I think for -- golf is such an individual sport that it's very difficult sometimes to get into a team mentality, and I stressed to all of them and every one else, it takes 12 players. One player alone can't do it; two players can't do it; it takes all 12. And unless I have all 12 on board, we're not going to win this.
And then I've forgotten the first question.

Q. Why were you concerned that they wouldn't bond?
BETH DANIEL: Oh. Why was I concerned they wouldn't bond.
Just, you know, I felt like I might potentially have some different personalities, but as it turns out, that was my perception from knowing them. Part of that might be because I'm kind of considered a media person now. So they don't always open up to me and show me their true personality.
You know, it's funny, when you're a player, even if I go to a golf tournament just as me, all the players open up to me, tell me what's going on in their life, everything else, but if I'm doing TV that week, I don't hear anything because they're afraid I'm going to say something on TV, I guess. I don't know.
So because of the relationship of doing TV and some of the younger players only knowing me through TV, my perception of their personality was very different than how they really are. So it was more coming -- just my feelings. And I think as a captain, I think you worry about that, at least I do. You want your team to all get along.
Even the caddies, the caddies spend a lot of time with us this week, and so even like who the caddies are and that sort of thing and trying to make sure that everybody gets along really well. And it's just been phenomenal.

Q. You just described Michelle Wie as being portrayed in a certain way in the media as different from the real personality of Michelle Wie. Can you characterize those two; one, the media image she has; and two, what the actual Michelle Wie is like?
BETH DANIEL: Absolutely. Well, you know, from what I've read all these years, I mean first, you know, as a player we always read that, you know, the players didn't like Michelle, you know, they thought she was given everything, that sort of thing. And then when she plays golf, you know, she's very controlled. Even her answers in the media are very controlled.
And she's -- you know, in the team room and knowing her all these years -- because I've known her since she was 14. I was paired with her when she was 15 years old. When she's inside the ropes talking to the players and she's in the locker room, she is one of the funniest individuals I've ever been around in my life. She's got a very quick wit. She's on her computer all the time watching YouTube and all that other -- her age kind of stuff. So we're learning a lot about that sort of thing.
But she's really, really funny and she's really a sweet person. You know. I mean I put out a questionnaire to the team at the British Open, and you know, I had questions that we needed to know, like food allergies and what type of golf ball do you play, that sort of thing, for pairings. And at the end I put, "any other comments," and she wrote in there real big, she goes, "thank you so much for picking me." I mean, she's so appreciative of this opportunity. So it's just great. I mean she's a very grateful kid.

Q. In picking Michelle, was that a no-brainer for you or did you deliberate on that, especially with her being a rookie this year?
BETH DANIEL: Yeah. You always wonder if you should pick a rookie. I always feel like picking a rookie in the United States is a little easier than picking a rookie overseas, you know, because here she's going to have the fans at her back the whole time.
But I looked at the stats. I looked at her performances. I've said from day one of being captain that my picks were going to be the people who were playing the best coming into the event. And if I looked at 11 through 20, by far she was playing the best of any of them. So yeah. It was a bit of a no-brainer.

Q. Because of the length of this course, how much does her length help you guys, too, as far as she can hit the ball?
BETH DANIEL: Well, it'll help us if she keeps it in the fairway. I mean it's not only long, it's an extremely tight golf course. And that's what makes it so difficult. So you know, most people that hit it long have a tendency to hit it a little crooked. So that'll be a big factor here.
But it's also a golf course that you have to be able to hit the ball both ways, left to right, right to left, and she has all the shots to do that.
So you know, only time will tell how she reacts, but she's been playing very well in the practice rounds. She seems to be loose and ready to go, and hopefully that's the case.

Q. To kind of follow up on that, how is the team playing? Have you liked what you're seeing in terms of ball striking? I know they've had practice rounds so maybe that helps, but just in general do you like what you're seeing?
BETH DANIEL: I do like what I'm seeing. You know, yesterday I got out there for a little while, and today I was out there for a little while. Monday I didn't get much chance. I was running around doing stuff, so I really didn't get out on the golf course too much to see them.
But yeah, I like what I'm seeing. They're doing all the right things in the practice round. They're approaching it like it's a normal event, and that's how I want them to approach it.

Q. There's probably very little you don't know about the Solheim Cup as a player. Just wondered what the most difficult thing you've had to do so far as a captain and if there's anything that has particularly surprised you as a captain this week?
BETH DANIEL: Well, definitely the most difficult thing I've had to do as a captain is telling the players who didn't make the team. And to their credit, we've already gotten text messages from two of them, and one of them is here. You know, I think that's a pretty cool thing, that they're supporting the team when they were obviously very disappointed to not make it. But that's without a doubt the hardest thing that any captain has to do. And that was -- and I've said this, for 72 hours at the British Open, I hated being the Solheim Cup captain because of that.
But now that we're -- you know, that's been done, I have to live or die by my captain's picks, but Ron Sirak agreed with it the week before, so he can't criticize me. I know that, because he picked them, too.
But now that that's done and we're here as a team, you know, we discussed that as a team. When we came here from the British, I talked to the players. I told them how difficult that decision was, and they have all supported me 100 percent in my picks. Even though they may not have agreed with what I did, they support me. And that's what's important to me. So we are a team now, and on we go.

Q. Did anything particularly surprise you?
BETH DANIEL: I'm not -- no, I'm not really surprised. I think, you know, what helped me was being an assistant captain in '07, and Betsy King, to her credit, involved me in everything that she did, and I've done the same thing with my two assistant captains. You know, I've had them on all the conference calls. I've talked to them about all the decisions that I've made. Betsy did the same thing for me, and it was a great learning process.
And they've also -- Meg and Kelly have been extremely helpful in helping me put out fires this week, and you know, handle some of the situations that we've had come up. So I give them both a lot of credit. As a matter of fact, I don't think Meg slept last night at all. And she -- when I woke up this morning, she had been in the team trailer for a good portion of the night doing pairings.
So I don't have to worry about it now. So she comes, she's got these big wads of paper. She goes, "I have the pairings right here, Beth. I've got it all figured out." So I said, "All right, we'll take a look at them." (Laughs.)

Q. That almost answers the question I was going to ask. How much of what happens here, yesterday, today, a little bit tomorrow, will impact your pairings, and how much of a notion did you have going in? I think last year Paul Azinger said he knew weeks before exactly who he was going to put with whom. How much of a determining factor is this week do you think?
BETH DANIEL: Well, this week would be a determining factor only if somebody just can't find it, you know. And that hasn't happened. And we've -- you know, since the British, because the cutoff was so late, and I did that because I wanted to include the last major. I didn't want to go with just three majors in the second year.
But since the cutoff, you know, Meg and Kelly and I have been talking about that and putting potential pairings and rotations for the two days even. I mean we've gone that far, you know, what we'll do for the two days.
Now, of course, you can prepare all you want, but then you have to go on the fly a little bit; if something happens, and somebody is, just say they get injured, they're not playing well. To this point that hasn't happened. So we have and have had for a little while pretty good clue as to what we're going to do the first day.

Q. Can you speak to how Juli Inkster is fitting into the bonding process and then also just what kind of opportunity is there for Michelle Wie to spend a week with a player like Juli?
BETH DANIEL: Juli has been so good. She's one of the players that stood up at the dinner last night, and everybody was in tears, including Juli, who doesn't cry that much. But you know, what she said to those younger players was just, it couldn't have been more perfect.
And you know, when I picked Juli, I picked her and I said, "This is a tribute to you, Juli, that these players want you on this team." I don't think there's a greater tribute to a player than to have the rest of your team want you on the team.
And you know, that's got to be like a highlight for her in her career, I would think, that they all want her. I wanted her, too. She's very steady. She's been there. They go to her. I've told them to lean on her, ask her questions.
But you know, Juli is so young at heart that she's right in there with them in that team room, playing with them, ribbing them back and forth. I mean Angela Stanford's doing the same thing. She was on Michelle Wie the first day that we practiced here after the British, you know, she's just digging at her, and Michelle's just going right back, just toe to toe. And Michelle is like, "Why you picking on me?" And she said, "Because you gotta be tough for this event. I'm going to make you tough."
So Angela Stanford gets it, and you need that veteran leadership like that to help those players along. Juli is just priceless to have in that team room that way.
And then you know, on the golf course, she's 100 percent all the time, and -- but we flew in Monday after the British, and I was doing a media thing. We had one of the local TV stations came out here, and so I had the, what, 5:37. It was still dark. It's foggy. We're fogged in, and who walks out on the practice putting green out of her room with her putter and golf balls but Juli Inkster. It's dark.
So three other younger players see her. They walk right out of their rooms with their putters and they're all putting on the green. So you can't be a better leader than that. And they've been putting at night. You know, when they go out of their rooms like after dinner, right before dark, like five of them have been putting like every night. And you know, they're following Juli's lead.
And you know, to them, it's like, this is why she's a Hall-of-Famer, because she practices like this. So it's a great learning experience for all of them, too.
MIKE SCANLAN: Beth Daniel, thank you so much for coming in. Good luck this week.
BETH DANIEL: Thank you.

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