WEST DES MOINES, Iowa — LPGA Commissioner Michael Whan described the crowds for the upcoming Solheim Cup as something that might be found at a football game mixed with a soccer match and a mixed martial arts bout.
Des Moines will settle for it being one of the biggest golf tournaments the city has ever seen.
The Des Moines Golf and Country Club held media day Monday for the Solheim Cup, the biennial tournament between U.S. and European women’s golfers. The event, to be held from Aug. 14-20, features four-ball, foursome and singles matches. It’s much like the Ryder Cup — and the enthusiasm fans show for the men’s event can often be mirrored during Solheim Cup play.
The Americans won in 2015, snapping a two-event winning streak for Europe.
"Golf is kind of dull," U.S. captain Juli Inkster said. "I mean, it is. And everybody has to be quiet and hush hush. On the first tee (at the Solheim Cup), you have Europe (fans) singing songs, the United States (fans) singing songs. They’re very polite when you go to hit a shot. But beforehand, there’s a lot of cheering."
While overall interest in the Solheim Cup isn’t quite as high the Ryder Cup, landing the event was a big deal for Des Moines, the Iowa capital that has recently started to attract bigger events.
The PGA Tour Champions series has hosted a tournament in Des Moines for nearly 20 years, and it’s routinely among the more well-attended events of the season. The state has also hosted annual NASCAR and IndyCar races at the nearby Iowa Speedway, which opened just over 10 years ago.
But the biggest coup was landing the NCAA men’s basketball tournament for the first time in 2016, which went so well that the NCAA awarded the city with first- and second-round games again in 2019.
The Solheim Cup will be the first LPGA sanctioned event in Iowa since 1966 and the first in the state capital since 1956, when the Western Open was held in Des Moines.
But the LPGA said that, so far, 71 per cent of the tickets sold for the event have been for fans outside of Iowa. Though those numbers highlight the international appeal of the Solheim Cup, the LPGA clearly wants to see more locals commit to the tournament. Annika Sorenstam will serve as Europe’s captain.
"If you live within driving distance of (the course) and you don’t come to the 2017 Solheim Cup, shame on you. A humungous mistake," Whan said.