“The Solheim Cup is one of — if not the most important, prestigious, well-watched tournaments in women’s golf,” said Steve Mona, CEO of the World Golf Foundation.
Like the Ryder Cup competition for male golfers, the Solheim Cup is played every two years. The U.S. hosts it every four years and Des Moines Golf and Country Club is where Team USA hopes to defend its title. Team USA beat Team Europe in Germany two years ago.
“It’s really different for a golf crowd, if you will, because in most cases at an individual tournament the fans are rooting for everybody, some maybe more than others,” Mona told Radio Iowa. “But in this case, the fans are clearly rooting for one side over the other.”
The rules of play make it different from a standard golf tournament, plus there are far fewer players on the course. On Friday morning, just four groups of four will be on the course, so spectators will be clustered together.
“It just adds up to a more electric atmosphere,” Mona said.
Denver hosted the Solheim Cup in 2013 and Chicago hosted the competition in 2009. This year’s event is projected to have a $32 million impact on the Des Moines area economy.
“If the figures hold true, you will exceed the economic impact of those last two,” Mona said, “which is pretty impressive considering those are pretty big metro areas, i.e. Chicago and Denver.”
Mona told Radio Iowa the Des Moines Golf and Country Club was chosen as the venue for the 2017 event because the course will challenge the professionals and can handle lots of spectators. Mona said another factor was the “tremendous interest” in golfing here from fans and local businesses. Early this week, after looking at ticket sales, Mona predicted a record number of spectators will follow the three days of competition.
“I knew how passionate Des Moines and the surrounding area is with respect to golf,” Mona said, “and also the track record that the Des Moines Golf and Country Club had with the U.S. Senior Open.”
A record crowd of more than a quarter of a million spectators attended the 1999 U.S. Senior Open in Des Moines — at the same course where the Solheim Cup is being played 18 years later. Mona suggests people who will be watching this competition in person get to the course early, to watch the golfers warm up.
“If you’re a golfer and you want to try to get better, you can learn a lot based upon how these top professionals warm up and how they go about doing that,” Mona said.
Mona’s other tip for the fans is to try to position yourself close to the tee boxes, so you can hear the golfers talk with their caddies about which club to use and where to aim.
“Think about that in this context: you wouldn’t get to stand on second base at Yankee Stadium when the Yankees are playing a game…or you’re not going to stand on the free throw line in an NBA game, but you can stand five feet to 10 feet away from a player getting ready to hit a shot,” Mona said, “so I would take advantage of that.”
Mona has worked on the business side of the sport of golfing for 37 years. This will be the third Solheim Cup Mona has witnessed.