“You’ve been named the 2024 U.S. Solheim Cup captain.” Stacy Lewis couldn’t believe it. It was happening — again. One year prior, Lewis, a 13-time LPGA Tour winner, received the same call. “You’ve been named the 2023 U.S. Solheim Cup captain.”
For a full year, she started preparing and planning for Team USA to compete against Team Europe at Finca Cortesin in Andalusia, Spain, in September 2023. And now, she’s joining the World Golf Hall of Fame members Juli Inkster, Judy Rankin, Patty Sheehan and Kathy Whitworth as the fifth person to captain the U.S. Team at least twice.
Representing the U.S. on the 2011, 2013, 2015 and 2017 Solheim Cup teams, Lewis understands what it takes to compete on the biggest stage of team competition in women’s golf. And at age 38, Lewis will be the youngest American captain in Solheim Cup history.
While making the cut at this week’s KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, the two-time major winner, Lewis, closely watches the leaderboard before naming her team. With rising stars like Rose Zhang springing onto the scene and veterans like Jessica Korda out with injuries, Lewis must stay on top LPGA play.
Lewis, who is competing in her 15th year on tour and doesn’t have plans on slowing down, talked to ESPN about what it means to be named back-to-back Solheim Cup captain, why she’s still chasing more wins on tour and how she’s planning to change the women’s game.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
ESPN: How are you managing being an active LPGA player and captain for not one, but two Solheim Cups?
Stacy Lewis: I don’t know, to be honest. I mean, big picture. I try to be where I am. When I’m playing golf, I’m playing golf. And when I’m with [my four-year-old daughter] Chesnee and my husband [Gerrod Chadwell], I’m with them. I just try to be where I am — sometimes it’s late nights, getting emails or getting things done while Chesnee’s sleeping. I think back to everything I’ve done throughout my career, and it’s helped me manage and put things into perspective.
ESPN: We’re only a few months away from Solheim Cup. How are you preparing?
SL: I’m trying to discuss it as much as possible. You don’t want to necessarily talk about it with the players because you want them to play good golf, but to talk it up in the media — I want the announcement for captains’ picks to be a big deal.
And getting these girls the coverage they should be getting. That’s a lot of what I’m trying to do as we lead up to it because that’s our biggest kind of media opportunity leading into the Cup — announcing the team and then subsequently announcing the picks. And how can we make that big? How can we make sure it’s talked about with the guys? That’s my big goal, to do something with the guys. It seems like a no-brainer, but it’s been a little harder and slower moving than I would like.
ESPN: How much has your mind changed on who will be on your team or who you expect to see leading?
SL: It’s changed quite a bit. You look at Jessica Korda being hurt, a veteran voice that I think we’re going to miss. Then obviously, Rose Zhang popping in there. You’ve got Cheyenne Woods, who has played well this year and worked her way up in there. And Lilia Vu with the hot start to the year. We’ve got some younger ones that are going to be rookies to this whole thing.
It’s forced some different people to be leaders who didn’t always see themselves in that role. And it’s not going to them saying, “Hey, I need you to be a leader.” It’s just encouraging them to speak up and, if they have questions, to ask them and not wait for somebody else to ask them. It’s little things like that. A lot of times, your best leaders are the ones that lead by example, not by how much they say. So, I think the dynamics changed quite a bit, just with some people moving in, some people moving out. And we’ll probably have quite a few rookies when we start.
ESPN: You’ve been on tour for 15 years. You’ve seen it all. How do you feel about the current state of professional women’s golf?
SL: I was looking at the Solheim Cup teams over the years. I was like, “Okay, you have a bunch of rookies, and then you have a bunch of veterans for a while and the US wins for a while. And then we go the other way with rookies.” There are ebbs and flows to it. The Europeans, right now, have more of the veterans. They have more people with a lot of experience. And we’ve got to work our rookies up there, and they’re working their way into getting that experience.
You’re always going to have stars come along. They all have the game, but to have the attitude and the ability to hold up under pressure. Like Lilia Vu winning the Chevron in April to Rose finishing out the [Mizuho Americas Open] at Liberty Golf Club [in early June], just to see them have the moxie and the attitude to finish it out, that’s the coolest part for me.
ESPN: What do you hope to accomplish with your golf game right now?
SL: I’ve really played pretty horrendously the last couple of years, and I don’t want that to be the way I go out. I want to be playing good golf. I still have some good golf in me, and I’ve been working hard to get the golf swing back on track. Things had gotten pretty off, and I just wanted to get in contention and have some opportunities to win and see what happens. It’s harder than it ever is to win out here. I mean, it’s so deep on who could actually win that you can’t go into the week saying, “I’m going to win this week.” I just want to have a chance. That’s the goal.
ESPN: What do you hope to see regarding changes on the LPGA tour?
SL: It’s a very interesting time for golf. We don’t know what direction the PGA Tour is going to go when this [union with LIV] is all said and done, but I like where women’s golf is. I like where we are in corporate America and the companies coming to invest in us and see our value. I like where we’re going on that front. Ultimately, we could get to where our majors are equal with the guys. And then our other tournaments are at a lower level. And on network TV, we still got to get better and more TV coverage. We need streaming.
ESPN: On the women’s golf side, we’re now getting advanced data and analytics like strokes gained, thanks to the LPGA Tour financial support from KPMG. How are you utilizing these new advancements for the Solheim Cup?
SL: When I was announced as captain, I just started reading books and articles. And on the men’s side, it talked a lot about the analytics and the data, about how they could simulate pairings and give them potential people who would play well together. And I’m like, “Why don’t we have this?”
I started asking questions and tried to figure out the right route. I talked to KPMG about it just because I wanted to get access to our data. We have two years of data now, finally. It’s been a game-changer. We’ve been able to look at predictions of who’s going to make the team. We’re kind of projecting that out. Now we’re diving into girls’ games, finding the strengths and weaknesses and who would pair up together, who wouldn’t … If you’re kind of between two people for a captain’s pick, how they pair up with people. That could be a game-changer.
ESPN: Being named back-to-back Solheim Cup captain — does the excitement hold up?
SL: It still doesn’t seem real. I think it’s going to hit me more once we’re there and when I’m doing the press conferences every day. As a player, you get out of it and have some fun, but I’m going to be the one that’s answering all the questions and be front and center. I’ve enjoyed the process. I’ve enjoyed getting to decide all these things behind the scenes.
It’s probably not going to hit me until it’s over.