Solheim Cup captain Alison Nicholas is convinced that massive home support will be crucial to Europe’s hopes of winning the trophy for the first time since 2003.
And that’s why she’s backing a major recruitment drive to get up to 120,000 fans to Killeen Castle where US skipper Rosie Jones will be bidding to lead her stars to a fourth successive victory from 23-25 September.
Nicholas got her first taste of the captaincy at Rich Harvest Farms in Illinois two years ago. But while the sides were level entering the singles, the Americans won eight of the 12 points on offer to run out easy four-point winners.
Pint-sized English champion Nicholas has no doubt that the partisan Chicago crowd was the difference between the sides on the final day, which is why she’s backing the Solheim Cup Club Ambassador Programme designed to get as many Irish supporters as possible to the Co Meath venue.
“It was huge,” Nicholas said of the fan factor two years ago. “We really need to recreate that at Killeen Castle. Without going over the line in terms of etiquette and the spirit of the rules, it made a big difference in Rich Harvest Farms. The constant cheering for the home side can really wear you down.”
Nicholas gave a clinic at Killeen Castle and the former British and US Women’s Open winner will give another 30 at golf clubs around the country as part of the Solheim Cup Club Ambassador Programme, a recruitment drive designed to encourage Irish club golfers to support Europe.
Solheim Cup ambassadors are asked to promote the Solheim Cup amongst their members and tell them how they can buy tickets. Naturally, they will have an incentive to get as many as possible to sign up in the form of free season tickets and green fees at Killeen Castle.
“This is not available to the public at large,” explained Solheim Cup Club Ambassador Director, Shane Daly. “It is only for the Irish club golfer in the 32 counties. We have had fantastic support so far from the provinces, Ulster in particular, and great support from Killarney and Cork as well.”
If you sign up as an ambassador you are given a free season ticket, a complimentary green fee to play Killeen Castle at any time in 2011 or 2012 and a Solheim Cup sweater similar to the ones to be worn by the European team members.
The Solheim Cup ambassador gets a second season ticket plus a second complimentary green fee, if a club acquires 20 season tickets.
If the club sells 50 season tickets, the club ambassador may upgrade two season tickets to two tickets for the Pink Pavilion, which is a VIP marquee at the seventh hole during the matches plus a €500 bus subsidy to help with the cost of transporting supporters to and from the tournament.
Organisers are expecting between 100,000-120,000 spectators over the six days - three official practice days and three match days - with up to 30,000 a day expected to attend the three competition days from Friday to Sunday.