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Solheim Cup Captains eye up Crooked Stick

With almost a year to go before the 2005 Solheim Cup, European Captain Catrin Nilsmark visited Crooked Stick GC and was impressed with the Pete Dye designed venue, announcing that it was clearly ‘Championship calibre’ and a fitting venue for the biggest event in women’s golf.

One of Nilsmark’s guests during her reconnaissance of Crooked Stick was Alice Dye - wife of Pete Dye - who serves as honorary chairman of the 2005 competition and who is also a respected course designer in her own right.

“It will be tougher than it looks from the tee,” said Nilsmark about Dye’s legendary course where big hitting John Daly surprised everyone when he won his first major championship at the 1991 PGA Championship, only getting into the event as an alternative.

Nilsmark, who captained Europe to an historical victory at Barsebäck GC in Sweden last September, will be aiming to win with her European team for the first time on American soil.

Europeans have won the cup three of the four times it has been contested on home soil, yet the team are bereft of a victory in the USA.

"Oh, yes, we need to break that barrier,” said the 37-year-old mother of two.

But the affable Swede will be up against a stiff challenge as opposing captain Nancy Lopez will be aiming to avenge the defeat inflicted upon the US team in Sweden.

Lopez visited the course ten days earlier to promote the opening of the registrations for the random draw for 20,000 tickets which will be distributed to the general public and already, Lopez has noticed that stalwarts from both teams are getting into ‘match-mode’ a year before a ball is teed off in anger.

"It's not that they're bad sports, but we've really stopped talking to each other," said Lopez.

"It's just fact. It's not being mean. I think they're just starting to get focused and we're kind of becoming a team early in the year."

Nilsmark, a veteran of five Solheim Cups as a player and who holed the winning putt at Dalmahoy in 1992, has seen all of this before.

"In a Solheim Cup year, it usually gets that way," added Nilsmark. "I think it's natural and it's healthy as long as it doesn't go overboard and I think it's been to our advantage a little bit. To stay away from them has been good for us."

Nilsmark played from the Solheim Cup tees, measured at 6,515 yards and with soft conditions underfoot she needed fairway-wood approach shots on the par-4 14th and 16th and a hybrid iron/wood on the 18th.

“The course is almost certain to play faster and shorter next September and its length and wide fairways seems favourable to big hitters.

"It's also important to get some shorter clubs into these greens. There are going to be some players taking chances out here that you might not see in stroke play, depending on what your opponent did. There are some very interesting holes."

360 days and counting.

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