By Abby Liebenthal, AJGA Communications
Twelve girls clad in red, white and blue scream and shout from the stands overlooking the No. 1 tee at the Solheim Cup. Next to them, their European counterparts are cheering “E-U-R-O-P-E” with past captains and comrades from across the pond.
It was Friday morning, Day One of the Solheim Cup. United States fans walked by and shared their congratulations to these young women, others asked for photos with “the next generation of golf.” The camaraderie was electric as the girls cheered on old friends, Jessica Korda and Lexi Thompson, some having played alongside the now-icons at the 2009 PING Junior Solheim Cup.
Team USA cheered a little louder after claiming the PING Junior Solheim Cup for the third-consecutive time Wednesday, but representing their respective countries will stay true through the professional event.
1:00 p.m. – Thursday
Both teams arrive with one more practice day ahead. The players file into the media center and enter the brightly lit interview room. Players from the winning U.S. Team, Casey Danielson and Nicole Morales, joined captain Kathy Whitworth in a Solheim Cup press conference to share their experiences from the PING Junior Solheim Cup.
Some of the highlights:
“You guys played so amazing and we had to fight for every single point. And we applaud you as a team because you guys fought to the very end and made us work for it. You never gave up and that's all that we can ask for as a team, is to play against the best from Europe.” – Morales on competing against Team Europe
“I was going to love them no matter what. But I just wanted them to go out there and play for themselves, and to win for themselves and for the team. But not to be worried about anything else peripheral, myself or anybody else ... I gave this same pep talk to the 1990 Solheim Cup team.” – Whitworth on advice she gave the girls before heading into Singles matches Wednesday
“It just kind of makes me want to eventually get to that point. For me it's just been great to see them and see how well they interact with us … They came up to us the night before we played and we did a little cheer and we were talking with them in the hallway.” – Danielson on interacting with the U.S. Solheim Cup Team
2:30 p.m. – Thursday
After a quick lunch, both PING Junior Solheim Cup teams hit the driving range at the Colorado Golf Club to prepare for the Pro-Junior 3-Hole Challenge. The players signed autographs for fans behind the ropes, while Team USA’s Morales, Ashlan Ramsey and Alison Lee practiced alongside Team Europe’s Georgia Hall, Karolin Lampert and Emily Pedersen. These six players joined past Solheim Cup captains and players in an alternate-shot competition that featured six, two-person teams, each consisting of a professional and junior.
Teams were eliminated after each hole, with Lee and Ramsey’s teams tying in the end. Lee was paired with 2009 Solheim Cup player Kristy McPherson, and Ramsey teamed up with 2011 Solheim Cup captain Rosie Jones. To determine a champion, Lee and Ramsey came down to a chip-off on No. 18, which Ramsey won by two feet.
Teammates Ramsey and Jones congratulate each other after their win in the Pro-Junior 3-Hole Challenge.
4:00 p.m. – Thursday
Before the Opening Ceremonies, the junior Team USA was given a tour of the U.S. Solheim Cup Team locker room and lounge. Members of the Solheim Cup team joined their junior counterparts to congratulate the girls on their recent win.
5:00 p.m. – Thursday
The time had finally come for the Solheim Cup Opening Ceremonies. As the U.S. PING Junior Solheim Cup Team entered the ceremony, the full crowd erupted with a standing ovation and cheers of “U-S-A, U-S-A!” as the girls proudly waved their American flags all the way to their seats.
LPGA Chief Communication Officer Kraig Kann gave the opening statements, and congratulated both teams on an outstanding week. All heads turned to the big screen as the junior teams saw their highlights on display to the crowd.
European Solheim Cup captain Liselotte Neumann introduced her team as the junior counterparts cheered on in awe. U.S. Solheim Cup captain Meg Mallon captured the undivided attention of the audience with her words of encouragement, congratulations to the junior U.S. Team, and shared her excitement for the upcoming week.
7:00 a.m. – Friday
As these young players took their post Friday morning at the No. 1 tee, they led cheers for members of Team USA and Team Europe, including 13 PING Junior Solheim Cup alumnae. In four years, when the 2017 Solheim Cup returns to the U.S., bright-eyed juniors might be cheering on members from the 2013 PING Junior Solheim Cup teams, who have moved on to the next level – the Solheim Cup.