Emily Pedersen is an inspiration, she really is. “Who she?” I hear some of you mutter. I’m sure plenty of you will know exactly who Emily is but I realise many of you do not follow the professional tours quite as closely as the nerdy Madills, so allow me to enlighten you a little.
Emily was a member of the European 2017 Solheim Cup team which lost to the Americans at Des Moines Golf & Country Club in Iowa. A former British Amateur champ and the 2015 Ladies’ European Tour Rookie of the Year, Pedersen was worth her place on that team. However, instead of it being the highlight of her career to that point it turned into a nightmare for her. She played in three of the five matches, losing each one relatively comfortably.
Annika Sorenstam, Europe’s captain, was found to be lacking the skills required to handle a shaky athlete on a world stage and Emily felt marginalised in the most pressure-cooker week she had hitherto faced on a golf course. It was the worst time in her golfing life. A crisis of confidence ensued and Pedersen fell into an abyss of self-doubt and loss of form with the result that at the start of 2020, just before the March lockdown, she was outside the top 500 in the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings.As I write, Emily is arguably the hottest female player on the planet. She has won four times on the LET this year, including the last three tournaments. This is only the second time in the history of the tour that a player has achieved the feat of winning three consecutive tournaments. The trailblazer in that particular regard was the inimitable Marie-Laure de Lorenzi of France – 31 years ago. I know, because I was there playing at the time. It was so long ago that some of the commentators don’t know how to pronounce her name correctly!
Pedersen has been dominant all season and showed her class on Sunday in winning the Andalucia Costa Del Sol Open De Espana at Real Club De Golf Guadalmina. A bogey-free weekend and a final nine of 32, culminating in three birdies on 16, 17 and 18 saw her win by four shots and also add the season-long Race To Costa Del Sol title to her haul of trophies. However, her greatest prize, arguably, was having her Dad on the bag for Sunday’s win. He had suffered with her through all the lows and she was understandably emotional to have him by her side as she capped an incredible year, which, by the way, also included winning a men’s event back in her home country of Denmark.Not that Emily is a player who overly relies on her caddy – and for good reason. She simply hasn’t got a regular bag carrier. Her coach caddied for her when she won in the Czech Republic and she “borrowed” Mikey Patterson, So Yeon Ryu’s caddy, for her two wins in Saudi. Then in Spain last week it was Dad’s turn. So now she heads to Texas for the US Women’s Open next week – and I just hope Mikey will have sorted out someone good for her. She may be European No 1 but it pays to have a good dose of experience beside you in a major.
Catriona Mathew may well have the Danish player’s name already inked in on her team sheet for next year’s Solheim Cup encounter in the States and she may be certain of one thing. This time it’ll be a very different Emily pulling on the European colours – it’ll be a player scarred by this game, certainly, but one who has come through adversity and who has learned to curb her frustrations with herself. Most importantly of all she has learned how to win.
Finally, one more thing that struck me forcibly about our new European no 1 and is very obvious in the photograph below……….come on, you corporates, surely you can do better than this?Earlier in the week I was lucky enough to attend a fascinating online seminar featuring astronaut Tim Peake as the keynote speaker. In December 2015 Tim became the first British astronaut to visit and spend six months on the International Space Station, conducting a space walk during the mission. He emphasised the need for a training programme that encouraged the making of mistakes, claiming that “failure is the best teacher.”
An appropriate mental attitude and an all-important flexible mindset cannot be developed or acquired if training in a risk-free environment, he insisted. These principles resonate through every walk of life – whether that walk is around a golf course or around a station out in space! It was fascinating and illuminating and a reminder of qualities we should all strive to hone, no matter our path through life. Valuable lessons for all and sundry.
Here in England we are coming out of lockdown just as several of our friends and family in other parts of the globe are moving back into that strange world we have all inhabited so much this year. Fingers crossed that we ALL find ourselves back out on the links next year, enjoying the challenge of the game and the company of our pals. I know that one lesson I’ll take away from 2020 is that I’ll never take golf for granted again.