The players were announced Sunday evening for this year’s Solheim Cup, the LPGA Tour’s version of the Ryder Cup. This year it will be played in Ireland at Killeen Castle Golf Club, just twenty miles northwest of Dublin.
The U.S. Captain is Tour veteran Rosie Jones and she didn’t actually have to do a whole lot of work Sunday night because 10 to the 12 players were determined by their two-year, accumulated points ranking. In order:
But it wasn’t these automatic picks that created the excitement. It was her two wildcard picks, Ryann O’Toole and Vicky Hurst.
Here’s a quick slideshow at Golf Digest with twelve flattering photos and Ron Sirak’s synopsis of what he thinks their individual strengths are.
But it turns out that all the hoopla is over Ryann O’Toole, a Tour rookie. O’Toole used to be best known for her appearance on the Golf Channel’s, The Big Break Sandals Resort. She was super-competitive, quick to anger and easy to become upset when things didn’t go her way. Knowing that these traits are an anathema to playing great golf, it just made you want to reach into the television and give her a good shaking to snap her out of it. Understandably, she was bounced out on the fifth show.
But a funny thing happened on her way to becoming an LPGA Tour star. Playing in just seven tournaments in this her rookie year, she finished 9th in the U.S. Open and T5 at last week’s Safeway Classic in Portland. And the truth was that she was quite a factor in the Open, more so than her finish would suggest.
So much so that you could actually enjoy watching her without having to worry if she was going to go off or not. It’s as if all that competitiveness has been neatly folded away into the athletic ability of a very fine player. Instead of discordant rap, we are treated to a sophisticated symphony.
Here’s the casting video from the “Big Break” that they used to select her. It’s only a minute and forty-five seconds and worth watching just to get the contrast. You can see all of the popcorn clichés about competiveness that has now been channeled to productive purposes. It’s not that she’s not competitive, it’s that she sees now that that’s not the most important element of great golf. It’s the calm intensity.
Randall Mell writing at The Golf Channel, had a great post on how she’s evolved since then. In “Risky Business: O’Toole the ultimate wildcard,” he captures the breadth of Jone’s pick in these two sentences:
On Sunday night, U.S. captain Rosie Jones made the stunning announcement that she was choosing O’Toole as one of her two captain’s pick. She was naming a rookie with a paltry seven career LPGA starts to her team. She was putting O’Toole on the roster.
And he nicely captures a couple vignettes that O’Toole shared with him that capture her evolved boldness.
If it happened the way she said it did, it’s a great story of transformation—one minute you aren’t it and the next minute you are—and the elements that went into hers. And if it’s all as she says it is, we have nothing to worry about with her now and we will be very glad she’s on our team.
Lost in all of this is poor Vicky Hurst. She was a world beater out on the Futures Tour winning five times in 2008 and winning the Rookie and Player of the Year awards. So she’s young and she’s a winner.
It hasn’t quite shown up yet at the LPGA Tour level; her best finish this year was just this week, also a T5 in Portland. Rosie said she was attracted to players who were hot right now. Maybe all the attention O’Toole is getting will give Hurst some cover to come out of her shell and thrive in the Cup.
So bottom line, great team and there should be a lot a interest in seeing these players, in Ireland, circling the wagons as a team at an away game.