NORTH PLAINS, Ore. (AP) — The members of the U.S. Solheim Cup team return to their day jobs Friday at the LPGA Safeway Classic.
Eleven of the 12 American women who defeated a team from Europe last weekend at Rich Harvest Farms in Sugar Grove, Ill., are playing in the tour event at Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club.
Among them is Cristie Kerr, the defending champion of the Safeway Classic, who was admittedly still recovering from the emotional international victory.
“Just a very exciting week,” she said. “A lot of fun, hanging out with teammates and you know, building friendships. And we played some pretty fantastic golf.”
Paula Creamer, now an opponent of Kerr’s rather than a teammate, echoed the sentiment.
“It’s a very physically and mentally draining week,” she said as she fought off a bug from last weekend’s nonstop action. “You’re just constantly on the go, there’s not much sleep.”
Juli Inkster was the lone member of the Solheim Cup team who was not playing in Oregon after withdrawing earlier this week.
The biennial competition proved to be something of a coming-out party for 19-year-old Michelle Wie, who has been touted as the next big thing since she was a 13-year-old with a big swing and a mouth full of braces.
Wie helped lead the team to a 16-12 victory with a 3-0-1 record. In the end, she hoisted an American flag and paraded it around the 18th green with her teammates.
“I really think she kind of came out of her shell,” Kerr said.
Wie, playing a full schedule on the tour for the first time this year, said the experience should benefit her – not just at the Safeway Classic but beyond.
“I think I gained a lot of confidence from last week so I think that will help me,” she said. “But I’ve been feeling like I’ve played well all year. I just want to do better.”
The Stanford student hasn’t missed a cut in 13 starts. She’s been in the top 10 five times, and she ranks 17th on the money list.
Wie and her colleagues will try to maintain the Solheim buzz this week on a course they’ve never seen before.
The Safeway Classic was played for the previous 19 years at Columbia Edgewater Country Club near Portland International Airport.
Pumpkin Ridge, which opened in 2009, is made up of the private Witch Hollow course and the public Ghost Greek Course, about a 20 minute drive west of Portland. The Club has hosted numerous events, including the 1996 U.S. Amateur, won by Tiger Woods, and the 2003 U.S. Women’s Open.
The par-72, 6,457-yard course features three straight par-5 holes. Lorena Ochoa, who won the Safeway Classic in 2007, said her strategy is to get to those holes at one or two under, then gain some ground.
“I think it’s fun for us and fun for the spectators,” she said.
Last year at Columbia Edgewater, Kerr beat Swedes Helen Alfredsson and Sophie Gustafson with a 15-foot birdie putt on the first playoff hole.
Kerr joked that when she wins on a course, it’s almost a given that she won’t play there again the next year.
“It’s par for the course for me. If I win I’m guaranteed to be on a different course next year. I think (for) 10 of my 12 wins this happened,” she said.