There’s only one blogger on the case this week because Mo has been laid very low by the dreaded Covid and could barely raise herself from her sickbed let alone raise a finger to tackle her keyboard. Fortunately her latest test, taken yesterday, was negative, so she’s on her way out of self-isolation and starting to feel human again.
To aid her recovery, golf, proper golf, leads the way this week with the unsurprising announcement that Suzann Pettersen is Europe’s new Solheim Cup captain, charged with defending the trophy in 2023, at Finca Cortesin on the Costa del Sol.
The Norwegian, who holed the winning putt at Gleneagles in 2019, was one of Catriona Matthew’s vice-captains at Inverness Club in Ohio this year as Europe pulled off another stunning victory and said, “I am simply thrilled…This is the biggest honour of my career.“My best golfing memories are from the Solheim Cup. You are there with your team mates, your friends and you all work for one goal. You fight for your friends and you share incredibly precious moments. I love the fighting spirit and how we come together as a team and fight for one another. It is a lot of fun.
“I’m very excited…I feel like I know a lot of the players but in two years’ time we might have a lot of new young players. I think my biggest role from now until then is being out there and getting to know them and building relationships.
“At the end of the day, having learned from Beany [Matthew] and the other captains that I have been with, communication is everything.”
Pettersen, who made her Solheim debut at Interlachen in 2002, used to be unbelievably hard on herself as a player and ferocious in the single-mindedness that won her two majors but marriage and motherhood have given her a new perspective and maturity without dousing her competitiveness
She’s hoping for some Spaniards on her team and Carlota Ciganda is one veteran who will be busting a gut to make it. She won her national title, the Andalucia Costa del Sol Open de Espana, in impressive style at Los Naranjos last weekend and no one was in any doubt what it meant to the 31-year old from Pamplona. Cool, calm and collected enough to win by four shots, she couldn’t hold back the tears afterwards as she was embraced by family and friends.“It’s hard to explain,” she said. “I get emotional because I love Spain and I love my family, so it’s just amazing to win this week. It’s a tournament that I really wanted to win…to win your country’s tournament is something very special, so I’m very happy.”
Like Pettersen, Ciganda comes alive at the Solheim, putting her heart and soul into the match, inspiring teammates and spectators alike. She’ll not want to miss out on home turf.
We’re making plans to send a contingent from WHGC to Spain – a former captain has already done a recce – and cheer Europe to another famous victory. The Americans will have other ideas, of course and viruses and travel restrictions permitting, they’ll have plenty of supporters to cheer them on. It should be terrific.
Viva Espana. Vamos.
It would be remiss of me not to mention Atthaya Thitikul, the 18-year old from Thailand who has just become Europe’s No 1 by winning the 2021 Race to Costa del Sol. She was also rookie of the year and became only the fourth player to achieve that double, joining Dame Laura Davies, Ciganda and Esther Henseleit.
Thitikul won twice and was rarely outside the top six, amazing for someone who didn’t compete at all last year because of the pandemic. “It’s been a rollercoaster of a year but all the hard work I put in last year has paid off,” she said. “At the beginning of the year I was scared to see what the conditions were going to be on the golf courses and how the grass plays and if I was going to be able to handle it..
“I’m really proud of myself for the second-place finish on a links course in Scotland [the Trust Golf Women’s Scottish Open at Dumbarnie Links], while my wins in Switzerland and the Czech Republic were similar conditions to Thailand….My goal is to get better ever single day, I don’t want to just win tournaments, I want to get better in my game.”
She now hopes to secure her card in America and no one in this corner doubts her ability to succeed and adapt wherever she plays in the world as Thailand’s women golfers continue to flourish.There’s not been much golf in this neck of the woods, with WHGC closed because of snow and frost. In case we frustrated golfers took the reappearance of green grass to mean that we were free to take to the fairways again, we were directed to an old but relevant blog by Chris Lomas, a former course manager at The Berkshire and former deputy head greenkeeper at Swinley Forest. In “The Big Thaw”, he explained why it’s important to be patient and wait for the ground to defrost properly.
In essence, we have to respect the judgement of the course manager. If we move in too early, when the surface is soft and underneath is frozen, Lomas said: “Walking on the turf will break the roots and likely kill the plant. Multiply this with hundreds of footprints over a relatively small area and without exaggerating you can devastate your greens…”
Enough said, we’ll hold ourselves back, do the Christmas shopping, play a bit of bridge, walk the dog (perhaps just round the edges of the course) or go to the range and do a Thitikul.