Published 03/08/2011 | 05:00
Europe's Solheim Cup captain Alison Nicholas reckons the Irish will turn up in their thousands for the biennial clash with the USA at Killeen Castle from September 23-25.
A whistle-stop tour around Irish golf clubs between March and June brought 'Big Al' -- as the 4ft 11ins skipper is known -- in direct contact with male and female golfers as she spread the Solheim Cup gospel.
Nicholas hopes her input will help generate a K Club 2006 Ryder Cup-style atmosphere as Europe bid to win the trophy after three successive defeats.
The most amusing incident on her club visits was being asked "what's your handicap?" by one innocent golfer who didn't know Nicholas had won 18 times on Tour, including the US and Women's British Open championships.
"I visited about 16 clubs from the end of March to June and the feedback was great. Everyone seemed very enthused about the Solheim Cup," she said.
"Last year here at the (Ladies) Irish Open we got big crowds, so we're hoping we'll get a lot of support.
"I want it to be like the K Club was in 2006 for the Ryder Cup because that sort of support is your 15th club, your 13th man."
The Englishwoman, with four selections compared to two for USA captain Rosie Jones, will name her team on August 29 -- eight days after Jones shows her hand.
The top four in the European rankings and top four in the Rolex world rankings at the end of the selection period automatically make the team.
"I've got an idea of my picks, but it all depends on the make-up of those automatic spots," she said. "If it's all experienced players, I might go for some youth.
"If there are a lot of rookies, then I have to pick experience. It's very difficult."
USA captain Jones admitted: "It can all come down to the very last tournament. You commit to your choice and you don't look back. You move forward."
Nicholas will take note of performances in the Ladies Irish Open, which starts on Friday.
Jones won't be here for the event, but will monitor her players results from Killeen Castle with a view to the Solheim Cup.
"I've got three players here this week -- Vicky Hurst, Stacey Lewis and Christina Kim," she said.
"Vicky's a hopeful, Stacey is pretty much a lock-in and Christina is holding on to 10th place.
"I'll be waiting to get some feedback from them and pick their brains a little bit about the golf course."