After her surprise appointment as captain for the next two Solheim Cups, Stacy Lewis is ready to invest in youth and technology as she prepares to lead America into a new era
Stacy Lewis is surprisingly calm for someone with the weight of a nation on her shoulders. At the age of 38, the two-time Major champion and former World No.1 will become the youngest American captain in Solheim Cup history when she leads the US team out in Spain at Finca Cortesin.
There’s still an argument that she could (and should) be playing in it, which is why the timing of her appointment was so surprising. Angela Stanford and Cristie Kerr were seen as the more obvious candidates and Lewis even alluded to it moments after she was offered the job by LPGA Commissioner Mollie Marcoux Samaan.
“I think I said at least five or six times, ‘Are you sure? I really don’t want to step on anybody’s toes.” Lewis comes across as a reluctant leader at times, but her track record suggests otherwise. She is a vocal advocate for equal pay and improved maternity clauses in sponsorship contracts and has twice served as an assistant to former Solheim Cup captains Juli Inkster and Pat Hurst, who were part of the selection committee this time around.
Both agreed the US needed a different direction after two straight losses, which is what attracted them to Lewis’ gritty style of leadership and desire to drive change.
“They were the ones that felt like I was ready,” she explained during her unveiling. “Juli even said that, on the phone, “You’re ready for this.” That’s the biggest boost of confidence I could ever get. I feel like the team needs me right now.”
Lewis is honest enough to admit that mistakes have been made in the past, which is why she carries a notebook wherever she goes so she can act on ideas and opinions. She has made it her priority to lay the groundwork for future captains so that they “don’t have to reinvent the wheel every time”.
It helps that she will reprise the role again in 12 months’ time, but she’s already implemented a new stats system to help with pairings and picks, and given players the autonomy to speak their minds.
She admits that she’s placing a lot of trust in what is going to be an extremely young team. The hope is that she’s finally discovered what they have been missing.
I love the Solheim Cup and I’ve enjoyed this process more than I ever thought I would. Just the challenge of it, because I think behind the scenes we haven’t been as organized as we could have been. Making things better has been a goal of mine.
I’ve never seen this whole captaincy as stress or pressure. Pressure is making the five-footer to win the whole thing for your team. I think I’ve had too much fun with it, and I’m still trying to learn. I’m trying to read as many books as I can about coaching, about leading organizations, leading teams and how to create a great environment for the players. That’s my job, trying to take that pressure off them so they don’t feel it so much.
It’s been a long process of trying to get our team to have what the men’s Ryder Cup teams have had. We need to have access to data to allow us to dive into strengths and weaknesses, who’s trending in the right direction, who’s not, who plays best on certain types of grass, simulating pairings of who can play well together.
KPMG have a lot of research on the fourball and foursome format of which type of player plays best in those formats. It’s completely changed my mindset on what type of players you put in those situations. I think it’s given me some clarity on why we’ve struggled in the past in certain formats, so I’m excited to see it hopefully work out a little bit better for us.
I desperately want these girls to experience what winning a Solheim Cup feels like. I want them to experience the celebration and pulling the shots off when you need to. It’s definitely hard to put all that work into it and to not win. But the European team are going to be good. They’re stacked. They’ve got a lot of veterans, a lot of people with a lot of experience. They’ve got some young ones with a lot of game. It’s not going to be easy by any means.
The last few months have made me more excited. Rose (Zhang) playing the way she’s been playing, Allisen (Corpuz) winning the US Women’s Open. They’ll be Solheim Cup rookies, but they’re going to be very experienced. We’ll have at least three rookies and two of them will have won Majors. We’re going to look young on paper but they’re going to bring a different mindset to the team room. I’m excited to see how they do.
I was hoping Rose was going to turn pro this year and was watching her for the 2024 Solheim Cup. I figured that by then she’d be a member of the Tour and have a chance of making the team. She kind of blew those plans out of the water and went ahead and won this year. That took care of it for me.
It’s like a broken record every year, that the US is better on paper than Europe. But Europe has come back and won every time. I think it will come down to the last matches again. I just think the talent level is way too good for someone to go win by four or five points.
It comes down to putts. We didn’t make enough last time out. That’s what I talked about, being in those last groups and learning how to handle the pressure and the emotion of it. But I think our girls are getting a lot more experience, and we will be ready for Spain.
Our girls don’t have anything to lose. I think Europe have all the pressure. They won the last couple. We’re going to their home soil. I’d just like the pressure to switch to them and let our girls go free-wheel it.
Suzann and I, we played a lot of golf together over the years. I think we only played one Solheim Cup match together, but it’s one of the things I look forward to most about this Solheim Cup, going up against her. Her record speaks for itself in the event, and the putt she made in Scotland, coming back after having a baby, she’s definitely got the one-up on me there. But I’m so excited. We both have kind of personalities that hopefully we don’t have any rules issues, because I don’t think either one of us will back down.
About the author
Today’s Golfer Features Editor
Michael Catling is Today’s Golfer‘s Features Editor and an award-winning journalist who specializes in golf’s Majors and Tours, including DP World, PGA, LPGA, and LIV.
Michael joined Today’s Golfer in 2016 and has traveled the world to attend the game’s biggest events and secure exclusive interviews with dozens of Major champions, including Jack Nicklaus, Jordan Spieth, Tom Watson, Greg Norman, Gary Player, and Justin Thomas.
A former member of Ufford Park and Burghley Park, Michael has been playing golf since he was 11 and currently plays off a handicap of 10.
Away from golf he’s a keen amateur chef and has his own healthy recipes website. He also loves playing squash, going to the gym, and following Chelsea FC.