The man behind the Solheim Cup — Quotes from Cincinnati — Must-click women’s golf links
The IX: Golf Thursday with Addie Parker, Sept. 7, 2023
Happy Golf Thursday, my friends. We are two weeks away from the Solheim Cup and players are beginning final preparations. The LPGA is in Cincinnati this week for the Kroger Queen City Championship presented by P&G — the final event before the Spanish showdown. Over the next two weeks, I plan to focus on all things Solheim, starting with the man responsible for its inception — Karsten Solheim.
At the age of 42, Solheim began his golf journey. And as we all know, once you’re bitten by the bug, it’s quite difficult to resist the temptation of the game. Like all of us, he experienced the highs and lows golf subjects you to, but unlike most of us, golf had inspired Solheim to develop equipment to enhance not just his playing performance, but enhance the game for all. This led to the creation of one of the biggest equipment companies in golf today — Ping.
Ping was founded in 1959 by Karsten and his wife Louise Solheim and the game has never been the same. With an extreme focus on innovation (Solheim was a mechanical engineer at General Electric) and performance, Solheim and Ping reshaped how the average golfer experiences the game.
It all began with the iconic creation of the Anser putter, which coincidently made a “ping” sound every time it was struck, hence the name of the company. This putter was revolutionary, the first of its kind, featuring an offset hosel that provided golfers a clean view of the face. This was the first cavity-back putter, which allowed for a low center of gravity and lines parallel to the face to help golfers keep it (the face) square to their target.
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But the revolutionary technology didn’t end with putters, Solheim began to develop clubs that were more forgiving for us non-professionals. Solheim was the first to introduce perimeter-weighted golf clubs, moving the focus away from the clubface center by distributing the weight of the clubhead more evenly throughout the entire club. By moving the weight towards the toe and heel of the golf club, Ping expanded the club’s “sweet spot” (that magical spot in the center), producing better results from off-center hits.
“The thought I had was if you put perimeter weighting around the club it would give you a chance to mis-hit it and still make a good shot.”Karsten Solheim
Over the next couple of decades, Solheim and Ping expanded their reach, but they felt they could do more. During the 1970s, the Solheims began to sponsor LPGA events — the first was the Karsten-PING Open which was held in Phoenix in 1975. In the late 1980s, the LPGA Commissioner at the time, William Blue, contacted Karsten and Louise about an idea for a Ryder Cup-style competition for women.
In November 1990, the first-ever Solheim Cup took place at Lake Nona Golf and Country Club, Florida (the site of the Hilton Grand Vacations Tournament of Champions). Team USA was captained by legendary Kathy Whitworth, who led her team to a dominant 11½ – 4½ victory over Team Europe. (Author’s note: the breakdown of match points is intricate so click here for how points are awarded during the cup.)
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The relationship between Ping and women’s golf has only expanded. In 2002, the Ping Junior Solheim Cup was created as a pipeline for the Solheim Cup and a way to invest in the future of women’s golf. Paula Creamer, Brittany Lang, Alison Lee, Angel Yin, Brittany Lincicome, Morgan Pressel, Yealimi Noh, Lexi Thompson, and so many others are among the extensive list of Junior Solheim Cup alumni.
For nearly 50 years, the Solheim Family and Ping have dedicated time, energy, and money to the women’s game, unlike any other prominent golf brand. And this dedication hasn’t gone unnoticed, this week it was announced that Karsten Solheim will be named to the National Sporting Goods Association’s Hall of Fame.
“We’re very proud Karsten is receiving this honor and I know he would be, as well. Joining the Sporting Goods Industry Hall of Fame is a testament to the revolutionary products Karsten developed and his role in making the game of golf more enjoyable for all who play it. He’s joining a select group of leaders and innovators who have impacted the entire sports world, which I know would bring a smile to his face and a twinkle in his eye. This honor is a great reminder to the sports industry and golfers around the world of Karsten’s never-ending impact on the game of golf.”John A. Solheim, Ping’s executive chairman, and grandson of Karsten Solheim
What Ping represents is a family-operated, product-first company that aims to constantly better itself with each and every design. The missions of Ping, the LPGA, and the LET seem to align and if the willingness to invest in the players continues to grow, there’s no doubt in my mind that the Solheim Cup can and will surpass the Ryder Cup in terms of the level of play, crowd enthusiasm, and eventually revenue.
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This week in women’s golf
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Five at The IX: Pre-tournament quotes from Queen City
Q. Some really consistent golf this year with four Top 10s, additional top 25s. What are you hoping to see in your game this week?
ALLY EWING: Yeah, like I said, just a good title defense. I know the worst thing you can do — being in this position before, the worst thing you can do is kind of lean on your expectations for last year. This year is a completely new year. While I have good memories, if I compare last year it’ll only hinder my performance. It’s kind of a blank slate for me.
I’ll lean on those memories as good things, but I’m not going to put any like high expectation or just set the standard at winning. That’s what we tee it up hoping to do and setting the mark for when we want to do, but I’m going to show up and try to put together — start out with two really consistent rounds and hopefully play two more over the weekend if given the opportunity.
Q: It’s your first time out here at Kenwood Country Club. What are your thoughts of the course?
LINN GRANT: I really like it. I think it’s very scorable. Like you don’t have to be afraid when you’re out there playing. It’s still kind of soft so can be quite aggressive at the pins, which I really like. So it will be interesting playing tomorrow and Friday, and hopefully goes well.
Q. And then being back in Cincinnati this week, what did you enjoy most about being in Cincinnati last year?
ANGEL YIN: I didn’t get to see much of anything last year, so this year I will enjoy the city a little more. I was hoping to get some tickets to the baseball game – for free — but nothing is free in this world I’ve realized, so I’m going to go buy tickets.
Q:Your Stanford women’s golf team recently won their first tournament of the season. What has it been like to watch and support them from a different view this year?
ROSE ZHANG: I was trying my best to refresh the leaderboards as much as possible. You know, it sucks to not be there with them, but it’s just such an incredible experience, especially with Paula, who is an incoming freshman. She played super well for her first event.
Entire teamed played amazing. Meg got her first collegiate win. I think that entire week was honestly just such a dream week for them. I was so happy for them. I texted everyone. They’re super pumped about the season starting. School hasn’t started yet, so once they’re back on campus it will be full steam ahead, schedule, workouts, practice, and everyone couldn’t be more excited.
I’m really happy for them. I think they’re going to do amazing the next couple months. They also have their backs. Everyone is super close. I don’t think this year will be any different.
Q. How would you describe this past year that you’re close to concluding versus last year? Last year, several wins; this year very close, but no trophies yet. Any specific difference you can point to?
JENNIFER KUPCHO: Not necessarily. I think after breaking through and having my first win last year I kind of became — I just really became really confident with my game that I could win out here, and won two pretty quickly.
Then all of a sudden nothing came, and I think that really just like — I had to take a step back during the off-season to realize you just went three years without a win and now you’ve won three. It’s not just going to all come as easily as it just came.
So just taking a step back during the off-season and realizing that it’s not as easy as it looks. So just going into this year really just having fun playing again after the last half of the season last year. It was a hard, a hard rest of the year and I really just didn’t want to be on the golf course.
So coming into this year just really mentally getting myself into it and really just trying to go out and have fun, and also doing other fun things on the road just trying to make this life a lot more fun.
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