TOLDEO, Ohio | Old proverbs aside, it doesn’t happen often. In most cases, opposites don’t attract. Inspire you. The tension of interacting with a complete opposite can provide a temporary thrill in the way protons and neutrons accelerate around a nucleus. But that acceleration is unstable and, when taken to extremes, makes Fat Man and Little Boy kind of flammable. Oh sure, you might find the person opposite you fascinating and exciting for a day or two, maybe even a week or a month. But the inevitable goal of the thrill is exhaustion. And unbridled exhaustion always leads to furious contempt.
Nobody in the US Solheim Cup team doesn’t like their teammates. They get along well, as does everyone in this elite sisterhood. As expected, the official team photos on Wednesday joked and laughed and joked. And on Thursday, as they were preparing for the gala at Fifth Third Field, home of the Toledo Mud Hens, they talked about makeup and shoes and all the things one would expect from a group of women in the middle of an extraordinary week .
But the first shots have not yet been fired. As soon as the matches begin and a couple drops a few holes in a four-ball match, or when a partner begins to fight their way off the tee in a four-ball competition, the opposing personalities move away from each other. But it is also when the person who is most like you – that partner who empathizes with you because they thinks like you, feels like you, and acts like you – put their arm around you and put the right thing on the right Time says. Encourage and motivate people with similar personalities because they understand.
That is what the pod system is all about, which was fully adopted and implemented by U.S. Captain Pat Hurst.
“When I first thought about breaking a 12-man team into smaller groups, I thought it could be golf-based,” Paul Azinger told me. Azinger developed the pod system prior to the 2008 Ryder Cup after the United States lost seven out of 10 Ryder Cups. But for a historic solo comeback at Brookline in 1999, the US would have likely lost seven in a row, with the 2004 and 2006 games being one-sided and humiliating for Americans. “I knew we had to do something,” said Azinger. “After examining what the Navy did in forming the SEAL teams, I realized that the smaller the group, the easier it was to connect.
“At first I thought I had four teams of three and I was golf based – a bomber, a laser iron player, and a person who could blot out the eyes. But then I realized that four is the perfect number, not just in golf, but in life. It’s a double date, a bridge game, a foursome in golf, a four-seater car. It’s a natural human number. Go to any party and you will see people gather in groups. If you pay attention you will find that four is the most common number. And in a format like the Ryder Cup, it works for the games because it offers more combination options. “
The most important aspect of the pod system came later, when Azinger passed on the idea to his good friend Ron Braund, a Ph.D. and clinical psychologist who has worked on team building with numerous billion dollar companies. “You have to build the capsules on the basis of personalities,” Braund told him.
“Ron was right,” said Azinger. “When the going gets tough, when the pressure gets so great that you think you can’t breathe, you have to have a partner who runs towards you, not away from you. … How personalities will do that. “
In this year’s US Solheim Cup team, the personalities of some of the pods couldn’t be more clear. The Korda sisters are a perfect match, indistinguishable in their mannerisms and character traits, with Ally Ewing and Megan Khang exactly fitting. They are the perfect mix of slow intensity and empathy discussing a problem with a friend and listening to every word you have to say.
Then you have quiet assassins – Lexi Thompson, Brittany Altamore, Mina Harigae and Yealimi Noh, players who would love current Ryder Cup captain Steve Stricker because Stricker was on Azinger’s 2008 team in the same silent riot capsule.
The final capsule from Hurst’s team in Toledo is a mystery. The “Star” pod, as Angela Stanford calls it, consists of Lizette Salas, Danielle Kang, Austin Ernst and Jennifer Kupcho, an uneven foursome if there was one.
“Our only common behavior is that we play really good golf,” said Salas. “We are called the Star Pod because we are in different corners of this star and that makes us strong. We can adjust to each other, some better than others, but that’s what the practice rounds are about. We try to see what options we can get and at the end of the day we only want the strongest pairings. “
Kang jumped in and said, “When (Angela) explained the star capsule, it’s a diagram (where) we all did the personality test. There is such a thing as people’s “level of difficulty”. I’m alone in the right corner of it. “
“It’s exactly where they all fit on the personality rating chart,” Stanford said, further explaining the star name. “The way they fit in the diagram looks like a star.”
“The nice thing about being part of a team is that we all have a voice,” said Salas. “It’s not a cutthroat here. It’s not like you’re in this (pod); Deal with it.’ It’s more that we made it up. They give us their feedback, they want our feedback, because at the end of the day we all want to feel as comfortable and confident as possible.
“The captains and assistants ask for our contribution. They appreciate our input. I think they appreciate our voice which is amazing. That takes great leadership. You know, after the capsules were first drafted, there have been some shifts. Now we feel 100 percent comfortable with it. And we’ll make the most of it. “