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Solheim Cup, 'Olympics' of women's golf, expects 150,000 fans for 2021 showing in Toledo

Tony Paul
The Detroit News

Toledo — Organizers for the Solheim Cup — women's golf's version of the Ryder Cup — are hoping to tap into the Midwest's passion for golf, especially Michigan's, in hopes of turning the 2021 United States-vs.-Europe grudge match into perhaps the most-attended sporting event in Toledo's history.

Solheim Cup officials hope to reach 150,000 attendance for the week, Aug. 31-Sept. 6, at Inverness Club. There will be three days of competition, wrapping up with the singles matches on Labor Day, as well as a host of events all over downtown Toledo.

Brittany Altomare, left, and Nelly Korda of the U.S. celebrate after halving a match against Europe during the 2019 Solheim Cup.

"This is a hotbed for golf," said Becky Newell, director of the Solheim Cup. "The community, Michigan, Ohio, is blessed to have an event this size.

"And it will never come back."

The Solheim Cup, like the Ryder Cup, is held every other year — and thus only once every four years in the United States (Europe also hosts every four years).

The 2021 event will be unique, in that it will be held the same year as the Ryder Cup, which was postponed in 2020 because of COVID-19. The Ryder Cup will be held in late September 2021, in Wisconsin.

That could be perceived as a burden for the Solheim Cup, but that's not how organizers are looking at it. Instead, they see it as an opportunity to boost publicity.

"They don't need us," said Newell, adding a decision will be made soon on whether the Solheim Cup and Ryder Cup will go back to alternate years in the future. "But we can work together."

Newell also said she hopes to work together with other major golf tournaments, in getting the word out about the Solheim Cup, which played in Ohio once before, at Muirfield Village in Dublin in 1998.

She said she would like to have a presence at Detroit's PGA Tour stop, the Rocket Mortgage Classic, when that tournament is held at Detroit Golf Club over Fourth of July weekend in 2021. Michigan holds four annual golf tournaments from the major tours — the PGA Tour tournament in Detroit, LPGA Tour tournaments in Grand Rapids and Midland, and a Champions Tour stop in Grand Blanc. That's in addition to a tournament on the Symetra Tour, the LPGA Tour's developmental circuit, in Battle Creek, plus an every-other-year Champions Tour major in Benton Harbor.

Ohio hosts a PGA Tour, LPGA Tour and Korn Ferry Tour tournament every year.

So, there is no shortage of fans to lure to storied Inverness Club, which has hosted four U.S. Opens and two PGA Championships — though this will be the biggest tournament since the major restoration project in 2016, a project that, with new bunkering and massive tree removal, shares similarities to the ongoing upgrading at another Donald Ross gem, Oakland Hills Country Club in Bloomfield Township.

Oakland Hills held the Ryder Cup in 2004, with more than 200,000 fans attending at some point in the week. The last two Solheim Cups in the United States have drawn more than 100,000.

Of course, that was pre-COVID-19, and nobody really knows when we'll be back to gathering shoulder-to-shoulder again.

"We're not looking in the rearview mirror," Newell said. "Of course we get questions about it.

"It's all systems go."

Like the Ryder Cup, the Solheim Cup features three days of competition — two-person teams in the morning and afternoon on Days 1 and 2, then singles matches on Day 3.

But Solheim Cup organizers are making the event about more than just the golf. For the first time in its history — the Solheim Cup launched in 1990  — the Opening Ceremonies will go off-site, to be held at Promenade Park featuring a major headliner concert. That will be Friday, Sept. 3, the day before play begins. On Thursday, Sept. 2, a sponsor celebration will take place at Fifth Third Field, home of the Toledo Mud Hens. On Tuesday, Aug. 31, kicking off the week, Solheim After Sundown will take place in Hensville.

The City of Toledo is making preparations too, with significant renovations along Summit Street downtown, along the Maumee River. Economic impact for the area could top $30 million.

"It's not really all about golf," Newell said. "It's their Olympics."

2021 Solheim Cup

When: Aug. 31-Sept. 6

Where: Inverness Club, Toledo

Schedule: Aug. 31 — Opening Day. Sept. 1-3 — Practice. Sept. 4 — Morning foursome matches, afternoon four-ball matches; Sept. 5 — Morning foursome matches, afternoon four-ball matches. Sept. 6 — Singles matches.

Captains: Pat Hurst, United States, and Catriona Matthew, Europe.

Tickets: At solheimcupusa.com; daily $45-$75, weekly $385.

Defending champion: Europe; won 14.5-13.5 in 2019.

tpaul@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @tonypaul1984