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Published: Saturday, 7/20/2013 - Updated: 1 year ago

Mallon not playing on this business trip

U.S. captain busy with evaluations for final Solheim Cup roster spots

BY DAVE HACKENBERG
BLADE SPORTS COLUMNIST

Meg Mallon didn’t come to Highland Meadows on Friday for a trip down memory lane.

Meg Mallon, a northern Michigan native, spoke with the media Friday. The U.S. Solheim Cup captain is preparing to fill out the final roster spots before next month’s event in Colorado. Meg Mallon, a northern Michigan native, spoke with the media Friday. The U.S. Solheim Cup captain is preparing to fill out the final roster spots before next month’s event in Colorado.
BLADE/ANDY MORRISON Enlarge

But she took one anyway.

The route from her home in northern Michigan took her right past Grand Blanc, where she won the Michigan Amateur, which earned her an invitation as a sponsor exemption in the very first Jamie Farr Toledo Classic in 1984.

Two decades later, the 2004 Farr was the last of her 18 professional wins. The 2010 Farr was her last tournament, period, before retirement. “This is a full-circle event for me,” Mallon said.

But it’s not why she was here Friday. It was fun to revisit all that, even her once-painful disqualification while in the lead in 1996. But Meg had other things on her mind.

She is the captain of the U.S. Solheim Cup team that will take on Europe in less than a month at Colorado Golf Club in Parker, a suburb of Denver.

This is the ladies’ version of the Ryder Cup. If, by chance, you don’t think it is quite as big a deal, keep it to yourself. To the ladies of the LPGA Tour, it’s a face-painting, game-grinding, nerve-jangling, spine-tingling, patriotic event.

“You play an individual sport like golf and then you get an opportunity not only to play on a team but then to represent your country, that should be a lot of fun,” Mallon said.

“I think the more fun you have, the more relaxed you’re going to be, the better you play. It’s the most fun I’ve ever had playing golf.”

But it’s serious business, too.

So Mallon has some serious decisions to make.

Up to now it’s been clothing selections and meal menus, practice rounds and hotel reservations, flight schedules and shoe sizes.

Now it’s time to pick the team.

Some of it is done automatically based on a points competition that runs a two-year course. This weekend’s Marathon Classic is the penultimate event on a schedule that concludes with the Women’s British Open.

In fact, the final rosters for both teams will be announced on the 18th green at St. Andrews in Scotland. There is little that could be more symbolic than to be introduced on the game’s most history-steeped stage.

Based on points, the first eight members of the team would appear to be set. In order, we’d present Stacy Lewis, Paula Creamer, Cristie Kerr, Angela Stanford, Brittany Lincicome, Jessica Korda, Lexi Thompson, and Brittany Lang. All but Kerr are at the Meadows, doing their best to leave nothing to chance.

The next two berths go to the top-rated Americans in the world rankings who have not otherwise qualified. That pretty much makes Lizette Salas a lock while things look decent for Morgan Pressel. The last two players are captain’s picks.

No disrespect to any of her predecessors, but Mallon might have as good a handle on this as any captain ever. She played in eight Solheim Cups, and her 16.5 points scored is the second most in U.S. team history.

She gets it. She picked Dottie Pepper and Laura Diaz as her assistants because one was a hard-edged, passionate member of Team USA, the soul of teams on which Mallon played, and the other is still active, still respected, still tapped in to the younger players and the heartbeat of the tour.

Mallon will use statistics, performance lines, past records, her eye, and her gut to make the final two picks. She could opt for a young gun like Michelle Wie or an oldie but goodie in Juli Inkster, the best U.S. Solheim Cup player ever and still able to summon the magic, perhaps.

Meg knows what it takes and, more importantly, she knows what won’t cut it.

“It’s a high-profile stage with a lot of energy and attention,” Mallon said. “It takes a special player to embrace that and to want to play in that. It’s not for everybody. I’ve seen players thrive. I’ve seen players that, you know, it didn’t help their careers very much because it was a tough position to be in.”

Mallon will do her best to find a couple special players. She won’t know for sure until the peg goes in the ground.

At least we know they have a special captain, one who’s determined to add to the memories.

Contact Blade sports columnist Dave Hackenberg at: dhack@theblade.com or 419-724-6398.



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