CASERAS, Spain — She was sitting quietly, as this unassuming soul tends to do, at the back of the Solheim Cup media center focused on the pre-match interviews here at Finca Cortesin. Which is ironic. Because Mickey Walker, Europe’s captain in the first four editions of the biennial encounter with the United States (1990-92-94-96), is worth listening to herself.
“The captaincy has changed dramatically since my time,” Walker, 70, says. “It wasn’t until 1996 that I had a vice captain. Before that, I had no helpers. I used to have to ask players how they had performed in practice in order to decide who was playing and who wasn’t. Crazy. And not exactly how it tends to be done these days.”
A six-time winner on the Ladies European Tour and a near winner on the LPGA Tour, where she lost a four-hole playoff to Sandra Palmer at the 1976 Jerry Lewis Muscular Dystrophy Classic, Walker left the Solheim captaincy clutching a creditable 1-3-0 record. In their infancy, the matches were a long way from competitive, such was the overwhelming depth of the American teams of the 1990s.
“Back in 1990 there were very few spectators at Lake Nona for the first Solheim,” says Walker, a two-time winner of the British Women’s Amateur Championship and the first women to receive life membership of the British PGA. “But the event was only announced a few months earlier. The American team at that time was almost a ‘who’s who’ of women’s golf. I know Betsy King had no concept that it was an actual match. She thought it was nothing more than an exhibition. Which it was, to an extent.”
Walker acknowledged that early on, the European side was largely in awe of the Americans they were competing against.
“We had Laura Davies. And we had Lotte Neumann. Pam Wright had been rookie of the year on the LPGA. But they would have been the only players on the opposing side the Americans either knew or had heard of,” Walker said. “So they had no expectation that we could challenge them. And within our heart of hearts, we didn’t either.”
This article was originally published on golfdigest.com