European Solheim Cup Captain and Rolex Testimonee Suzann Pettersen gives her thoughts on her biggest golf role to date
The Solheim Cup is a tournament with which you are synonymous, having represented Team Europe nine times as a player and twice as a vice-captain. How much are you looking forward to this year’s edition as Captain?
This year’s edition of the Solheim Cup will definitely be different in comparison to past ones. I believe that being a player is easier than being a Captain. As a player, you show up and the main focus is to perform at your optimum, and when you step onto the tee, you have full control.
As a Captain, you have control of the activities that week, the planning and the progression of the week but the rest, such as the team’s progress remains in the team’s hands. I am not the one hitting or putting that shot. It will be very nerve wracking sitting on the outside and just watching on. However, I am going to do everything in my power to help facilitate the team’s atmosphere and preparation.
Hopefully, I will be able to guide them with my past experience and philosophy that I have created through my experience playing on the LPGA Tour. It is important to emphasise the need to the players to have a brilliant and fun week as it remains extremely memorable.
No matter the outcome, I want the players to look back with positive memories and with motivation to want to play the tournament again.
It is great to see a huge amount of Europeans competing and winning – there are some great Solheim Cup rookies on the team. I am in awe of them as they are extremely feisty and fearless.
As Captain, you have to lead a team of the top European golfers to try and defend the Solheim Cup on home soil. How excited are you by this challenge? And how do you see the European team faring?
There is definitely an advantage when you are competing on home soil as one is surrounded by the home crowd, and the atmosphere is truly electric and motivating. It can be described as having a 15th club in the bag.
However, at the same time, it is a lot of pressure as we need to continue the winning momentum of Team Europe. We all want to make history by claiming a third win. This creates an expectancy and can result in extra pressure on the players.
Between Team Europe and Team USA, it may be quite equal in terms of playing this year. I remember back in 2011 in Ireland, we played the course during the Ladies European Tour so the majority of us were very familiar with it.
In this case, The Solheim Cup is being held in Spain where there is less pressure for the scouting trip as the chances of the preparation week being interrupted is very low.
I am truly excited for this event but it is definitely different being on the captaincy side despite having been a vice-captain previously. I remember supporting the Captain in her decisions so this time around I will definitely be more involved in every decision, which is exciting. It will definitely be a learning experience.
Do you enjoy the leadership responsibilities involved with captaincy?
I love being a Captain. I am very grateful that I get to do this now as I still remain fairly involved with the players. I do not feel like I have been away for that long from the game. It goes without saying that new players have turned professional since I retired. I have made the effort to introduce myself to them, and show genuine interest in their careers so far.
I have always dreamt of being Captain so it is a dream come true, and it’s great to lead such an inspiring group of players. Despite not attending every tournament week, there was Dame Laura Davies and fellow Rolex Testimonee, Anna Nordqvist who continued to play and who provided me with insights on what was occurring. I love how it keeps me involved with the game of golf which I truly love.
As Captain, how important is it for players to feel comfortable during such an intense and thrilling week?
Previously, when attending past Solheim Cups, my mentality remained quite tough and focused on the game. As a Captain, I would like to be approachable so it is important to remain open-minded, and communicate openly with the team with the approach. It is important for players to feel involved as it is a team competition, and it promotes initiative from every individual.
I really want to emphasise the importance of players sharing their opinions, whilst placing them on the right track. The team’s success at the Solheim Cup relies on effective communication; how messages, and advice are delivered to every player has an important effect on how matches can play out.
At the end of the day, whilst being a Captain, it is important to remain yourself and stay true to your beliefs and communication style. I have a little bit of humour so if people are a little bit tense I may be able to crack them and I think being a little bit funny is only going to help.
About Rolex Testimonees
Rolex Testimonees are part of the brand’s enduring relationship with the game which began almost 60 years ago, in 1967, with Arnold Palmer, joined by Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player. As part of its commitment to the game of golf that goes back almost 60 years, Rolex first partnered with the Solheim Cup in 1994, as a Global Partner and Official Timekeeper. The competition’s core qualities of teamwork, tradition and respect naturally align with the Swiss watchmaker’s own defining philosophy. This enduring partnership contributes to the development of the women’s game around the world. Rolex is part of the very fabric of golf and supports the game at all levels, including elite and legends of the game, Major championships – including all five women’s Majors – the foremost professional tours and the world’s leading team competitions, among them the Solheim Cup.