Charlotte GibsonESPN7 minutes of reading
“You have been named US Solheim Cup captain in 2024.” Stacy Lewis couldn’t believe it. It happened – again. A year earlier, Lewis, a 13-time LPGA Tour winner, received the same call. “You have been named US Solheim Cup captain in 2023.”
For a full year, she began preparing and planning for Team USA to compete against Team Europe at Finca Cortesin in Andalusia, Spain, in September 2023. And now she joins World Golf Hall of Fame members Juli Inkster, Judy Rankin, Patty Sheehan and Kathy Whitworth as the fifth person to captain the US team at least twice.
Representing the United States on the 2011, 2013, 2015 and 2017 Solheim Cup teams, Lewis understands what it takes to compete on the biggest stage in women’s golf team competition. And at age 38, Lewis will be the youngest American captain in Solheim Cup history.
While making the cut at this week’s KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, two-time major winner Lewis is closely following the leaderboard before naming her team. With rising stars like Rose Zhang bursting onto the scene and veterans like Jessica Korda out with injuries, Lewis must stay at the top of the LPGA game.
Lewis, competing in her 15th year on tour and with no plans to slow down, spoke to ESPN about what it means to be named back-to-back Solheim Cup captains, why she’s still chasing more wins on tour and how she plans to change the women’s game.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
ESPN: How are you doing as an active LPGA player and captain of not one, but two Solheim Cups?
Stacy Lewis: I don’t know, to be honest. I mean, the big picture. I try to be where I am. When I play golf, I play golf. And when I’m with you [my four-year-old daughter] Chesnee and my husband [Gerrod Chadwell], I’m with them. I just try to be where I am — sometimes it’s late nights, catching up on emails or getting things done while Chesnee sleeps. I think back to everything I’ve done throughout my career and it’s helped me manage and put things into perspective.
ESPN: We’re just a few months away from the Solheim Cup. How do you prepare?
SL: I try to discuss it as much as possible. You don’t necessarily want to talk about it with the players because you want them to play good golf, but to talk about it in the media — I want the announcement of the captains’ selection to be a big deal.
And to get these girls the coverage they should be getting. That’s a lot of what I’m trying to do as we lead up to it because that’s our biggest form of media opportunity leading into the Cup – announcing the team and then announcing the selections. And how can we make it big? How can we make sure it gets talked about with the guys? That’s my big goal, to do something with the guys. It seems like a no-brainer, but it’s been a little harder and slower than I would have imagined.
ESPN: How much has your mind changed about who should be on your team or who you expect to see lead?
SL: It has changed quite a bit. You’re looking at Jessica Korda getting hurt, a veteran voice that I think we’re going to miss. Then Rose Zhang obviously pops in there. You have Cheyenne Woods, who has played well this year and worked her way in there. And Lilia Vu with the warm start to the year. We have some younger ones who will be newbies to it all.
It has forced some different people to be leaders who didn’t always see themselves in that role. And it’s not going to be like, “Hey, I need you to be a leader.” It’s just encouraging them to speak up and, if they have questions, to ask them and not wait for someone else to ask them. It’s little things like that. Many times your best leaders are the ones who lead by example, not by how much they say. So I think the dynamic changed quite a bit, just with some people moving in, some people moving out. And we will probably have quite a few rookies when we start.
ESPN: You’ve been on tour for 15 years. You’ve seen it all. How do you feel about the current state of professional women’s golf?
SL: I watched the Solheim Cup teams over the years. I thought, “Okay, you have a bunch of rookies, and then you have a bunch of veterans for a while, and the U.S. wins for a while. And then we go the other way with the rookies.” There is an ebb and flow to it. The Europeans have more of the veterans right now. They have more people with a lot of experience. And we have to work our rookies up there and they work their way up to get that experience.
You will always get stars with you. They have all played, but that they have the attitude and the ability to hold on under pressure. Like Lilia Vu, Chevron won in April until Rose finished [Mizuho Americas Open] at Liberty Golf Club [in early June]just seeing them have the moxie and the attitude to get it done, that’s the coolest part to me.
ESPN: What are you hoping to accomplish with your golf game right now?
SL: I’ve really played pretty awful the last few years and I don’t want that to be the way I go out. I want to play good golf. I still have some good golf in me and I’ve been working hard to get my golf swing back on track. Things had been going pretty well and I just wanted to get in the fight and have some opportunities to win and see what happens. It’s harder than ever to win out here. I mean, it’s so deep about who could actually win that you can’t go into the week and say, “I’m going to win this week.” I just want a chance. That is the goal.
ESPN: What do you hope to see regarding changes on the LPGA Tour?
SL: It is a very interesting time for golf. We don’t know which direction the PGA Tour will go when this is the case [union with LIV] is all said and done, but I like where women’s golf is at. I like where we are in corporate America and the companies that are coming to invest in us and see our value. I like where we’re going on that front. In the end, we could get to where our majors are even with the guys. And then our other tournaments are at a lower level. And on network television we got better and more television coverage. We need streaming.
ESPN: On the women’s golf page, we now get advanced data and analysis such as achieved strokes, thanks to LPGA Tour financial support from KPMG. How do you take advantage of these new advances for the Solheim Cup?
SL: When I was announced as a captain, I just started reading books and articles. And on the men’s side, it talked a lot about the analytics and the data, about how they could simulate pairings and give them potential people who would play well together. And I say, “Why don’t we have this?”
I started asking questions and trying to figure out the right route. I spoke to KPMG about it just because I wanted access to our data. We finally have two years of data now. It has been a game-changer. We’ve been able to look at predictions about who will make the team. We project it like this. Now we dive into girl games, find the strengths and weaknesses and who would pair up, who wouldn’t … If you’re in a way between two people for a captain’s pick, how do they form with people. It could be a game-changer.
ESPN: Being named back-to-back Solheim Cup captain – does the excitement hold?
SL: It still doesn’t seem right. I think it’s going to hit me more once we get there and when I’m doing press conferences every day. As a player, you get out of it and have fun, but I want to be the one answering all the questions and being front and center. I have enjoyed the process. I have enjoyed deciding all these things behind the scenes.
It probably won’t hit me until it’s over.