Why the International Crown is a great idea
By Ron Sirak
OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- The history of women's golf changed forever in one dramatic hour at Killeen Castle in the 2011 Solheim Cup, when Europe stormed from behind to victory over the United States.
That rally had as much to do with the creation of the International Crown as anything, and in one fun Thursday at Caves Valley GC it became abundantly obvious this competition is one cool idea.
Before the comeback at Killeen, the Americans had won three Solheim Cups in a row and eight of 11. The pressure to add the rest of the world and create an International Team was significant.
And when Team Europe saved the Solheim Cup with its comeback win, the LPGA was smart enough to think outside the box when creating an event that could include non-Solheim eligible nations.
Instead of putting together an artificial International Team, the idea was to have eight nations qualify off the Rolex Rankings and put together four-woman squads also based on the rankings.
The spirited beginning to the competition showed that the idea worked. Each nation had team bags and each team was introduced on the No. 1 tee to their national anthems. There were some tears of pride.
Part of the problem with the Presidents Cup -- other than the fact the United States has won eight of the 10 competitions -- is that the International team is a completely contrived entity.
The sizzle factor is conspicuously absent. The nations that comprise the International Team have nothing in common other than the fact they are not eligible for the Ryder Cup.
The Ryder Cup team and the Solheim Cup team representing Europe have an identity. The European Union has a flag, an anthem and its colors are blue and gold. The International Team is a pick-up squad off leftover players -- albeit great ones.
The players representing the eight nations competing here this week -- the United States, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Japan, Australia, Taiwan and Thailand -- have a sense of national pride that adds an intensity to the tournament.
Among the many really cool moments during the opening ceremony were the times you saw a player singing along with her country's national anthem. There was a real, emotional connection to why they were here.
Another big difference that distinguishes the International Crown from not only the Presidents Cup but also the Solheim Cup and Ryder Cup is that nations qualify for the event.
You get the feeling that the players fortunate enough to be here this week will share with their colleagues what a great experience this was. And that will motivate countries not here -- like Scotland, England and China -- to work harder to get to get to the next edition of this tournament at Rich Harvest Farms in 2016.
The very good year the LPGA is having got a lot better this week with the inaugural International Crown. Simply put, it's a great idea. Now let's see if the golf lives up to the event.