Every two years one week in particular is circled on the calendar for women’s professional golfers, and we’re now just a handful of days away.
In a little more than a week 12 of the best players from both Europe and the United States will square off in the latest edition of the Solheim Cup as the Americans look to reclaim the Cup after a two-match skid in the last two playings of the biennial bash.
Ahead of the 18th Solheim Cup at Finca Cortesin in Spain, five players – three on Team Europe and two from Team USA – participated in a wide-ranging Q&A through a partnership with Rolex that covered their excitement for this year’s event, what they’d tell a younger version of themselves and more.
Q: How much are you looking forward to the 2023 Solheim Cup? And how do you see your team faring?
Stacy Lewis: The Solheim Cup will definitely be a challenge for us as the European team is extremely strong. They have won the last two editions. This year the Solheim Cup will be held at Finca Cortesin, which may be an advantage for Team Europe. They have the home advantage and the momentum. It will undoubtedly be a tough task but I know that every player on our team will be extremely motivated to reclaim the Solheim Cup. With this in mind, a large part of our preparation will be to ensure that we are as prepared as possible for competing overseas with the number of fans supporting Team Europe. I am extremely excited and really looking forward to attending the event. I love traveling abroad for the Solheim Cup as it is always a great bonding experience.
Suzann Pettersen: 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-racking 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. It is important to emphasize 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.
Annika Sorenstam: For the last ten years, Team Europe have been incredibly successful at the Solheim Cup and hopefully their momentum will continue. I think that they have a very strong team and certainly, a strong and experienced leader in Suzann Pettersen. Suzann has a great record at the Solheim Cup. She is extremely fiery, energetic and enthusiastic. She is surrounded by a great team and I am sure that she will put her heart and soul into her captaincy.
It is exciting that the event will be held at Finca Cortesin in Spain. I am sure that it will be great fun to play there. Over the years, we have had some wonderful players representing Spain and it is a brilliant opportunity for us to visit that region. I can already imagine the atmosphere around the first tee with all the fans – it will be electric. There is something extremely special about the Solheim Cup and being provided with the opportunity to represent one’s country. It is definitely a highlight of the women’s golf calendar and we are going to witness some incredible matches.
Anna Nordqvist: I haven’t been afraid to say throughout my career that the Solheim Cup is one of my favorite competitions to play in and the tournament that I probably love the most. There is just something about the atmosphere that you don’t get at other events. I have been assigned the vice-captaincy role this year which is exciting. My good friend and fellow Rolex Testimonee Suzann Pettersen is the captain of the European team for 2023 and 2024, and I have always wanted to be a vice-captain under her leadership. We have had quite a few meetings over the last couple of months. It is fun to be a part of all the preparation for the competition in a different role.
During the last few editions of the Solheim Cup, I have been asked more questions and been slightly more involved in that side of things but this is a new experience for me. I am probably the oldest player on the team and I have seen how the team environment and side of things has evolved. I would say that women’s golf has never been stronger than it is now and I think that we will be in Spain with the strongest team that we have ever had … I am very excited to be a part of this year’s Solheim Cup and I am trying to do my best to get a spot on the team.
Lexi Thompson: I am really looking forward to this year’s edition of the Solheim Cup. The opportunity to represent your country is one of the highest honors and there is no feeling quite like being at the competition as a team wearing the U.S. colors. I have also never been to Spain so I am looking forward to that aspect. That being said, I still have to ensure that I continue to play well in order to secure a spot on the team but there is definitely no better feeling being able to tee up for your country.
Q: Can you describe the feeling of what it means to represent your country/continent?
Sorenstam: “Every experience at the Solheim Cup has been very different. My first Solheim Cup took place at The Greenbrier in West Virginia in the United States. It was my second year on the Ladies European Tour and I had just been named Rookie of the Year. It was incredible as I was selected to be part of a team featuring so many of the players that I had looked up to for years such as Liselotte Neumann, Laura Davies and Alison Nicholas. Suddenly, I was amongst all these great players and at first, it felt quite daunting and intimidating as I was still a rookie.”
“I remember standing on the first green and a fellow player reminded me that it was important to breathe and not allow the nerves to take over. Since then, I have played in eight Solheim Cups, been a vice-captain three times and had the opportunity to be captain which comes with greater responsibility and pressures. I really enjoyed being captain as it enabled me to transfer my passion to other players despite no longer actively playing on the LPGA. As a captain, you are involved in all aspects of the game. You are vouching for all the players and want to be a part of every shot. There is no doubt that the leadership position results in a lot of stress but at the same time, it adds to the exhilarating and challenging experience.”
“The Solheim Cup is the pinnacle of team competitions in women’s golf where you are provided with the unique opportunity to take part in the team event as an individual athlete.”
Nordqvist: “A lot of people ask me what it is like to step up on that first tee box. The atmosphere and sense of occasion is something that you just can’t describe. I love it. I always think of those moments on the days when it is pouring outside, cold or windy and I don’t want to go to practice. These are honestly the moments that I live for. I have had the honour of hitting the first tee shot at three Solheim Cups, going out in the first match. Those are some of the best tee shots that I have hit. There is just something about the Solheim Cup that I love. My family always come to support me and it is nice to see that all the people are there for you.”
“Both teams come together, give everything to win and play for their teammates. It’s amazing how everything always feels so natural when Team Europe comes together. Coming down the last couple of holes, I have had some good singles matches with fellow Rolex Testimonee Lexi Thompson lately. It is just golf at it’s best. Women’s golf might not always see the crowds that you get at the Solheim Cup so it is really cool walking out to the first hole and getting a sense of the unique atmosphere with everyone signing and telling you how much they love you! They really are the moments I live for and more than I could ever have dreamed of. I hope to become a captain myself one day in the future. It is hard to put into words how much the Solheim Cup means to me and how much joy it has brought me personally but also to my family. They all booked their tickets the other day and already planning their outfits and songs. It is always just a very special week and one that I am hugely looking forward to this year.”
Lewis: “It is such an honor to represent one’s country. It is important to remind yourself of the bigger picture; that you are one of twelve best players out of the millions that live in the United States of America. I have never taken my participation at a Solheim Cup for granted. I am sure the team will feel the same honor as I did. It is such an honor to attend the event. From the opening ceremony to wearing the Team USA kit every day during the week, it is such a special experience.”
“What also makes the Solheim Cup special is that the fans are not supporting and watching you as an individual but because you are representing Team USA. At every Solheim Cup that I have attended, I have always had this amazing realization when I see the flags go up during the opening ceremony that I am representing the USA. It is a special moment and unique experience. You can reflect on all the preparation that you have gone through but from then on it becomes very real as the matches are announced. That is the moment where it really sinks in that you are at the Solheim Cup.”
Q: What is it about the team competition format that you particularly enjoy?
Thompson: “At heart, the game of golf is such an individual sport so as players we do not get the opportunity to play for our country or on a team very often. I believe that we are all just trying to enjoy the unique opportunity, the sense of occasion and all that comes with it.”
“The team format means that the game does not solely rely on one player and so it provides an opportunity for us to work as a team. It allows us to bond and get to know each other in the team rooms and between rounds. The friendships that develop and support we show for one another is truly amazing. I have always loved participating in team events – even during my junior and amateur golfing career. They have always been my favorites events to play in. It is also brilliant to see how it brings out a totally different side to the game and players’ attitudes. I believe that this is something that fans love to see and one of the reasons these team competitions are so popular.”
Sorenstam: “I love the match play and team format that comes with the Solheim Cup. There is so much pride in being able to represent your country and in this case, the continent of Europe.”
“Growing up and watching the Ryder Cup and the first few editions of the Solheim Cup, I always aspired to play in one and it was such a dream come true to be part of the team in 1994 – my first Solheim Cup. The Solheim Cup is the pinnacle of women’s golf and it provides a great global platform to showcase our sport and recognize the highest level of the women’s game. I truly love the competition, the format and the camaraderie within the teams. Every player enters the week as competitors but leaves with life-long friendships. Rolex has been a huge supporter from the start.”
Nordqvist: “I think that one of the reasons that it is great is because we don’t get to play in team competitions every week. It brings so much more passion. You’re not only playing for yourself but you are playing for your whole country and continent in Europe. You want to do your best for your teammates because you know they are doing the same for you. It’s such a great atmosphere and I think we are all very competitive. The taste of victory – in particular, beating the U.S. Team on American soil – is just so good.”
Pettersen: “There is nothing that can be compared to working as a team towards a common and shared goal. The atmosphere is completely different as one feels that you are fighting for each other, friends and your continent that you are representing in this case.”
“Annika Sorenstam was a great role model, I learnt a huge amount from her whilst having several opportunities to play with her. We remained undefeated. I remember that no matter how we were playing; Annika remained determined in trying to advance our game. I truly love that aspect regarding her mentality. It is important to transfer this philosophy down to up and coming players – I feel like I have successfully done so since Annika’s retirement. As a team, you go through such highs and lows so even through the tough times, you bond, and create memories that will last a lifetime.”
“There is such a special bond and you create significant memories with other players. The game of golf and the results are only one aspect of the experience but the journey that you experience together, and the common goal truly marks in a positive way the tournament. To this day, I remember every Solheim Cup that I have attended and that is truly special.”
Q: If you could choose from any player past or present, who would be your ideal partner at the Solheim Cup?
Sorenstam: “It is a difficult question to answer as I have been lucky enough to play with some great players and have enjoyed playing with every team member. That being said, Suzann Pettersen and Catriona Matthew were the two of the players that I have played the most with and achieved a lot with. In particular, the dynamic playing with Suzann Pettersen worked extremely well.”
Pettersen: “It would be hard to not choose Annika Sörenstam as one’s ideal partner at the Solheim Cup.”
Nordqvist: “Suzann Pettersen – for sure. I don’t think there has been a better competitor in women’s sport over the years. Having been on the Tour, I have seen her passion, will to win and focus first-hand. I got to play one of my matches as a rookie in 2009 with her and it remains one of the coolest experiences I have been a part of. I was able to play alongside the golfers that I idolized while growing up.”
Lewis: “In this situation, I would choose from some of the legends of the game such as Juli Inkster. It is a hard decision as there are so many women that have made amazing putts and who I look up to. However, I believe that Julie would be a great partner as she is extremely passionate about the game of golf. In 2013, I had the opportunity to play with Paula Creamer in a match in Colorado and that was a unique experience.”
“Watching Solheim Cups and seeing her play over the years, it seemed that she had this amazing ability to constantly pull off the greatest shot when required. I learned so much from playing and examining her game that week.”
Thompson: “I have never played with Nelly Korda before and I feel like we would pair up well together. It is also interesting that I have been frequently partnered with Cristie Kerr. We have made a strong team at previous editions of the Solheim Cup and really feed off each other because we are both so tough-minded, determined and never give up. Cristie has definitely been a great partner of mine throughout my career. I have also been paired with Brittany Altomare.”
“Every single player mentioned are all great players with really good attitudes so it is hard to pick one as the ideal partner. The Solheim Cup is also all about working together as a team, feeding off each other’s energy and supporting one another if one hits a bad shot.”
Q: What would you tell your younger self when you first turned professional?
Lewis: “I would tell my younger self to enjoy the process. You will have bad days on the golf course and it is important not to be too harsh on yourself. The good days will outweigh the difficult ones. I have been fortunate enough to accomplish a great deal in the game of golf and sometimes, due to the hecticness of life, I did not appreciate those moments as much as I should have.”
Sorenstam: “There is a fine line between being focused, disciplined and motivated. Finding that balance in life is truly important. I remind my mentees that they should find their passion and happiness in their life, while remaining patient with their success. Success does not happen overnight. It takes time.”
Nordqvist: “I would tell myself that it might not always be easy but it is always going to be worth fighting, not giving up and putting in the hard-work. There are going to be those moments that you can only dream of and be hugely proud of the times that you put in that hard-work.”
Thompson: “I would say to my younger self that it is important to block out the outside noise and to just go out there and play fearless, aggressive golf – similar to how I grew up playing the game. I would also stress the importance of believing in yourself and accepting that bad days in tournaments will happen to everyone but it’s crucial to keep moving forward with a positive mindset.”
Q: Do you have a favorite course to play? If so, what is it and why?
Sorenstam: “Pine Valley Golf Club in New Jersey is my favorite golf course to play. It is just incredible. It is very challenging course and really tests your game. It is beautiful and every hole challenges you in different ways. As professional golfers, we are fortunate to be able to travel the world and play the game in amazing locations ranging from Pebble Beach in California to The Old Course at St. Andrews. I am a big links fan and love playing the courses in Scotland and Ireland. I’ve also been fortunate to play Augusta National a few times. That is a real treat.”
Nordqvist: “I actually get asked this question a lot and I really don’t have a good answer! I definitely appreciate learning about different places and cultures. I think that Singapore is really cool and love playing there. Golf takes us to so many countries and we get to meet so many special people. I think that I appreciate particular holes rather than courses. That being said, I would have to say that Carnoustie and Kingsbarns are two of my favorite places to go and play. I am also looking forward to the U.S. Women’s Open this year because I have never been to Pebble Beach. There are a lot of golf courses that I have never played! My dream is to play Augusta National Golf Club one day. We are fortunate to play a lot of great golf courses and I am very grateful to have had that opportunity but it’s difficult to pick just one!”
Thompson: “My favorite course would be the Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage, California. It is one of my favorite golf courses due to the incredible scenery and it always being in excellent condition.”
“Another amazing golf course would be Pebble Beach, where I was able to play for the first time last year. I am definitely looking forward to playing there again this year as the surroundings and views are beautiful. Words cannot really describe them!”
Lewis: “My favorite golf course would have to be The Old Course in St. Andrews. I played the 2008 Curtis Cup which was my last amateur event that I played before turning professional. During the tournament, all the players had access to caddies from St. Andrews. My caddie was named Fraser and he was unbelievable. He taught me how to play links golf, more specifically how to visualize the shots, where to land the golf ball and when to miss the fairways on purpose. Throughout the week, I played The Old Course eleven times and learned how to truly play golf that week. To then play the Women’s British Open at The Old Course in 2013 was so special, as not only did I win, but I truly appreciated the surrounding area and the course itself.”
Pettersen: “As professional golfers, we have a brilliant opportunity to travel and to visit these amazing locations in different parts of the world. However, I truly appreciate the golf courses in Scotland, they are so engrained in history, and they can be so effected by the climate which can make it challenging. St. Andrews is a special place for me and the game of golf. It is also great that we can attend exotic places to play golf. One’s performance, and the outcome of the week does affect one’s perception of the location.”
Q: What are your overall thoughts about Rolex’s longstanding support of golf?
Nordqvist: “I feel like Rolex is the most supportive company in professional golf and has been for a long time. Every event that Rolex is a part of is run very professionally and special. Rolex’s support for every level of the game – whether that be the professionals, amateurs or juniors – is unique.”
Sorenstam: “It is amazing what Rolex has achieved and done in terms of its support for the game of golf over fifty years. As a brand, Rolex has constantly supported all areas of the game, including both amateurs and professionals. They have grown the game and their brand has continued to grow along with it. Rolex has especially elevated the women’s game – something that has been extremely important for many decades and I am truly appreciative of everything they have done.”
Thompson: “Rolex has been an incredible supporter of the game of golf. If it was not for Rolex, we would not have these amazing sponsors that support us players. They have been a great, longstanding supporter of the game and continue to help elevate the game. As golf players, we are very lucky that Rolex, which is such a prestigious and timeless brand, supports all the major tours and helps us grow the game.”
Lewis: “After I was selected to be the Solheim Cup captain, I remembered that Rolex was a partner of the event. Rolex has been deeply involved with and linked to efforts to elevate women’s golf through the LPGA Tour and its partnership with the Solheim Cup. The association between such a prestigious and well-known brand such as Rolex and the best female golfers is a natural relationship.”
Pettersen: “I am extremely honored to be associated with such a unique and prestigious brand such as Rolex. They have been involved with the game of golf for more than fifty years. Since I have been apart of the game, Rolex have always been very supportive of women’s golf with them being clearly involved in tournaments and activities across the globe. I believe that Rolex are a very natural partner for the women’s game. Since becoming a Rolex Testimonee, it is noticeable that Rolex associates themselves with icons of different sports that have similar values to the brand. This speaks volumes about Rolex. Throughout my career, I have been able to forge a great working relationship with Rolex. When my captaincy for Team Europe for the Solheim Cup was officially announced, we agreed to celebrate this milestone with Rolex. I am extremely thankful for this, and I am proud to be able to have the opportunity to wear and represent a brand such as Rolex day in and day out.”