HEISER: LCC faces stiff competition for Solheim Cup

Steve Heiser
  • Lancaster Country Club is one of six bidders for the 2021 Solheim Cup.
  • All of the courses bidding for the event have played host to events of international significance.
  • The 2021 Solheim Cup site is expected to be announced this fall.

About 11 months ago, thousands of York County folks happily made the trek across the Susquehanna River to watch the best female golfers in the world.

By all accounts, last summer's U.S. Women's Open at Lancaster Country Club was a huge success, both competitively and financially.

A 20-year-old South Korean, In Gee Chun, stormed from behind for an unlikely and exciting one-shot win, posting birdies on four of the last seven holes.

Lancaster Country Club's layout drew rave reviews last summer when it played host to the U.S. Women's Open. Now, the nearby venue is hoping to play host to the 2021 Solheim Cup.

LCC was almost universally hailed by the golfers, fans and media as an outstanding and worthy venue for a major golf championship.

And a record crowd of more than 135,000 showed up for the event, helping to generate a regional economic impact reported to be in the $25 million range.

Not surprisingly, there was almost immediate chatter that LCC would be considered for — and would pursue — future major golf tournaments.

It didn't take long for that talk to become reality.

On Tuesday, it was officially announced that LCC would bid for the 2021 Solheim Cup, a three-day match-play competition that pits the best female golfers in the United States against their counterparts from Europe. The Ryder Cup-style tournament is held every other year in August, alternating sites between America and Europe.

This is an even bigger event than the U.S. Women's when it comes to economic impact (estimated in the $50 million range) and attendance (about 175,000).

Heavy hitters: Again, not surprisingly, LCC will have to beat out some real heavy hitters if it wants to land the coveted tournament.

The other contenders for the 2021 Solheim Cup are: the Inverness Club in Toledo, Ohio; Scioto Country Club in Columbus, Ohio; Oak Tree National in Edmond, Oklahoma; Brooklawn Country Club in Fairfield, Connecticut; and TPC San Antonio in Texas.

All of those venues have played host to multiple pro and amateur golf tournaments of international significance, including a large number of major men's, women's and senior championships. All of those clubs also have world-renowned course designers — men such as Donald Ross, A.W. Tillinghast and Pete Dye, to name just a few.

The competition is sure to be fierce.

LCC, however, proved last summer that it doesn't have to take a backseat to any golf venue in the United States.

Lancaster C.C. to invite 'world' for 2021 Solheim Cup

Area has long supported women's golf: In addition, southcentral Pennsylvania has long been a strong supporter of women's pro golf.

The Lady Keystone Open, a Ladies Professional Golf Association tournament, enjoyed a successful two-decade run at Hershey Country Club from 1975 until 1994.

The Futures Tour, a minor league women's tour, also had a strong two-decade run right here in York County starting in the mid-1980s at several different courses. That tour is now known as the Symetra Tour and is the official developmental tour for the LPGA.

Still, having a great course and strong community support may not be enough.

The bottom line in attracting the Solheim Cup to these parts may come down to which venue can generate the most revenue. That means the area business community will likely have to step up in a major way for sponsorship agreements. That happened with the Women's Open and there's no reason to expect anything different with the Solheim Cup.

Big fish in small market: None of the bidders is based in a huge media market. That's to be expected. The Solheim Cup is a major event for women's pro golf, but women's pro golf doesn't normally move the ratings needle nationally.

If the Solheim Cup were played in or near New York City, Chicago or Los Angeles, it would likely get lost in the avalanche of sports coverage given to the pro teams in those cities.

In smaller markets, such as Lancaster, Toledo or San Antonio, the Solheim Cup becomes a big deal, and the local media coverage reflects that.

It's often better to be a big fish in a small market, rather than a small fish in a big market.

Last year's Women's Open at LCC generated loads of regional coverage from media outlets not only in Lancaster, but also here in York, as well as Reading, Harrisburg, Lebanon, Chambersburg, Hanover and Carlisle.

The Women's Open was a big deal here, and if the Solheim Cup arrives in 2021, it will also be a big deal here.

In addition, LCC's location also helps draw at least some coverage from nearby large markets, such as Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York and Pittsburgh.

No slam dunk for LCC: LCC appears to have everything needed to land the Solheim Cup. Unfortunately, at least for this region, the other clubs in contention can boast similarly strong resumés.

This is no slam dunk. LCC is guaranteed nothing, but the club appears to have at least a reasonable chance at being picked as the 2021 Solheim host.

The final decision is expected in the fall.

Until then, LCC in particular, and the regional golf community as a whole, will just have to wait.

Steve Heiser is sports editor of The York Dispatch. He can be reached at sheiser@yorkdispatch.com.