LANCASTER — The message on Lancaster Country Club's official Solheim Cup Twitter handle (@BidToWin2021) was simple: "In 2015 we invited the nation. In 2021, we want to invite the world."
On the heels of hosting a record-setting 2015 U.S. Women's Open that drew rave reviews from players, fans and media alike, LCC on Tuesday made public its intentions to put in an official bid to play host to the 2021 Solheim Cup.
Led by 2021 Solheim Cup Bid Committee chairman Jerry Hostetter, vice-chairman Rory Connaughton, president of Discover Lancaster, Kathleen Frankford, and Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. Mike Stack, the committee laid out its reasoning for why it feels LCC should host the match-play event and what makes the club stand apart from the other five clubs bidding to host the event.
"I think there's something unique about Lancaster and central Pennsylvania," Connaughton said after Tuesday's announcement. "It's the desire of everybody around here to participate in a great event for a great cause. There's a charitable component to this. The Solheim family, which founded Ping Manufacturing, the golf maker, they're very big into charitable giving and we think the combination of business, government and the individual and family element of this community will be very attractive in that bid process."
Community support: One of the big selling points for LCC hosting the 2015 U.S. Women's Open, and part of what the committee will sell to the Ladies Professional Golf Association Tour later this month when they present their official bid, is how this event won't just be Lancaster's tournament, but all of the central Pennsylvania region, including neighboring York County.
When the club presented last year's United States Golf Association major, it was the first time it ever hosted an LPGA or USGA event, let alone the most important individual major championship in women's golf. But, over the course of the week, Lancaster drew in excess of 135,000 spectators, a new U.S. Women's Open record, and received the highest of praises from the players for how the course looked and played. It likely didn't hurt that the tournament came down to the very last hole on Sunday. Much of the success at last July's tournament was because of the large number of community members who signed up to volunteer for the event, as well as having a large percentage of the tickets being sold to local fans. That showcased just how passionate the area is about its golf. Many of those volunteers and fans came from York County
Now, the committee is hoping that same community support will be its main selling point as to why the 2021 Solheim Cup should come to Lancaster.
"I'm proud to announce that we've already secured numerous letters of support from various community organizations," Hostetter said during Tuesday's announcement. "...Many businesses have already stepped up."
Once the U.S. Women's Open came to a close, the brainstorming began as to which event the club could make a push to host next. The idea to make a bid for the 2021 Solheim Cup, which is the female tour's equivalent to the men's Ryder Cup, pitting an American team against a European team in five sessions of match-play golf, began about five months ago and is now in the advanced stages. Hostetter, Connaughton and Pennsylvania senator Michael Brubaker are among the committee members who will fly to Chicago later this month to present the club's official bid. An announcement for the winning club is expected sometime in September or October.
Competing clubs: Lancaster will be going up against the following clubs to host the 2021 event: The Inverness Club (Toledo, Ohio), Brooklawn Country Club (Fairfield, Connecticut), Scioto Country Club (Columbus, Ohio), Oak Tree National (Edmond, Oklahoma) and TPC San Antonio in Texas.
The Solheim Cup is played every other year and alternates between American and European soil. The 2017 event will be hosted by Des Moines Golf and Country Club and will then shift to Scotland for the 2019 Solheim Cup. With the LPGA Tour announcing future sites up to four years in advance, that makes the 2021 competition the next available American site up for bid.
Handling the traffic: While last summer's major championship set a new record for the number of spectators to attend the event, the Solheim Cup will generate even more.
The 2017 Solheim Cup in Iowa is expected to attract more than 175,000 fans over the course of the week of practice rounds and three days of actual competition. Among those are an estimated 10,000 European fans who fly to the United States for each American-hosted Solheim Cup, according to the LPGA.
That means the folks at LCC will now be tasked with handling upwards of 50,000 more spectators for the only women's event that is larger than the U.S. Women's Open. But, with that comes an estimated $50 million in potential economic impact for Lancaster and surrounding communities, including York County, because of tourism spending and partnering with local businesses, according to Frankford and Joel Cliff of Discover Lancaster.
Future venue?: Should Lancaster receive the bid to host the 2021 Solheim Cup, it'll be the first time Pennsylvania will host the event and make the club 2 for 2 in hosting the two largest tournaments in the women's game.
It could also make the club a regular in the rotation for future LPGA Tour and USGA events and firmly put Lancaster on the map of professional golf.
"We're going to take it one event at a time," Connaughton said. "But, we think the Lancaster County market and central Pennsylvania will respond to big-time events and we think the golf course can withstand the best players in the world, so we got a good combination here."
For more information regarding volunteering, becoming a sponsor or having first chance at tickets for the 2021 Solheim Cup, you can visit www.bidtowin2021.com.
— Reach Patrick Strohecker at firstname.lastname@example.org