As members and captains of the inaugural Solheim Cup teams for the USA and Europe in 1990, we were each given a scaled-down version of the Cup. Eighteen miniature Solheim Cups were created by the Waterford Crystal company and the mold was destroyed. It was a week for the Americans where the simplest things meant the most. It was a team bound together by the newness of the event and the respect we all had for captain Kathy Whitworth, her experience and her words of wisdom. We were motivated by the sheer privilege of playing not only for our teammates, families and fans but even more for our country.
So as I was trying to put together a few thoughts to write this piece, I looked at that mini-Solheim Cup and couldn't help but think of how far things have come in the 25 years since that first meeting at Lake Nona in Orlando, Florida. But part of me wants to go back to that time, too.
I purposely used the word privilege in the previous paragraph because I think it is the biggest difference I've noticed between the times I played on six U.S. Solheim Cup teams and the last matches played in 2013. If you look at the definition of privilege in Merriam-Webster's dictionary, you'll see listed second, "a special opportunity to do something that makes you proud." While I look over those 25 years, I am saddened to think that another definition of privilege has reared its ugly head far too often, one that finds synonyms listed further down the entry such as entitlement, birthright and favor.
I am incredibly thankful to have had the opportunity to be one of two assistant captains to Meg Mallon for the U.S. Solheim Cup team two years ago at the Colorado Golf Club. I learned so much about the behind-the-scenes preparation -- two-plus years' worth -- that go into making an event as large as the Solheim Cup move from concept to reality. The staffs on both sides take great pride in their work and how the event is presented and, sadly, so much of what they do is unfairly overlooked.
As an assistant captain, I saw an American team two years ago that was completely outplayed by a brilliant team from Europe, but the stage was set, I believe, by an attitude of privilege -- the negative and synonymous descriptions listed above -- by some key players. Players who needed to set the tone for a let's-get-the-job-done week, rather than an attitude of inconvenience and entitlement. It's not about face paint and time set aside for team manicures, or whose stilettos cost more and are a quarter-inch higher, or hair stylists and makeup artists.
It's about conserving energy for a weeklong marathon, being positive about preparations, carving out the time to make sure you understand the intricacies of the golf course and the rules that will be in play that week. It's about doing what your captain asks, even if it means staying off social media during a weather delay. It's about doing things that are not normal -- not your own selfish routine -- because the Solheim Cup is anything but normal.
Some of my very favorite Solheim Cup memories are made of the abnormalities of the week: washing and ironing the entire team's white shirts on Sunday night with Judy Rankin at Muirfield Village because we had run out of short-sleeved shirts during the weeklong heatwave in 1998; being dragged out of bed in my pink, one-piece pajamas by Nancy Scranton for a Sunday night afterparty while she was in nightclub attire in 2000; Betsy King playing night golf at Dalmahoy after our loss in 1992; helping to pull Brandie Burton out of the worst-smelling creek EVER during that same week at Muirfield Village; and Pat Bradley dancing the Macarena on top of a pool table after the USA had come from behind for victory in 1996.
It's not about the stuff, it's about the substance. It's not about the bling, it's about being there for whatever your captain asks. It is most definitely not about entitlement, but it's about privilege, the privilege of a rare opportunity to do something extraordinarily special -- to represent yourself, your family, your fans and your country.
I wish this perspective for everyone on both sides competing this week, and it will be my privilege to watch these Solheim Cup matches unfold 25 years after I had the distinct privilege to play for the first time.