Caroline at the 2011 UNIQA Ladies Golf Open presented by Raiffeisen

Sweden’s Caroline Hedwall will be back at GolfClub Fohrenwaldh in Wiener Neustadt, Austria, to defend the UNIQA Ladies Golf Open presented by Raiffeisen on September 7-9.

This is Caroline’s first appearance on the Ladies European Tour since her two starts in Australia in February, where she recorded a pair of top-15 finishes.

After being named the LET’s Rolex Rookie of the Year and Players’ Player of the Year in 2011, following four tournament victories and a sterling debut Solheim Cup appearance, she has had mixed fortunes this season.

Playing on the LPGA, she enjoyed a solid start to the year with back-to-back top 10 finishes at the RR Donnelly Founders Cup and Kia Classic, where she tied for sixth and fifth place respectively, but she has since had to take time out to recover from injury.

The UNIQA Ladies Golf Open presented by Raiffeisen will be her first tournament in two months, following the US Women’s Open in July, where she missed her fourth cut in a row.

For Caroline, Austria represents a fresh start and she is looking forward to returning to the scene of her victory last year, when she won by four shots over Caroline Afonso with a three-round total of 204, 12 under par.

This year, she will also be competing against her twin sister, Jacqueline, who has received an invitation to participate in the championship. Jacqueline also played collegiate golf in the United States and caddied for Caroline last year at The Solheim Cup and at a number of other tournaments.

In this interview, Caroline discusses her season so far and her forthcoming title defence.

Caroline (right) and her twin sister Jacqueline (left) doing her internship caddying at the 2011 Omega Dubai Ladies Masters

Caroline, it has been a busy 2012 for you on the LPGA, with two top 10 finishes over in the States. What have been the main differences from last year and any challenges? 

Well, I got off to a good start and felt really good about my game in the beginning of the year, but after an interval session on the treadmill during a tournament in Atlantic City the first week of June I got some intense pain in my left groin, and it wouldn’t stop. It hurt both when I was walking and also when I was hitting, but I thought it was just a bad strain. Being a little too stubborn… or in this case, stupid, I kept on playing while taking pain killers…talked to a couple of doctors on the road, and the last one told me to do an MRI when I got home in July after the US Open. So I did, and the MRI showed I had a stress reaction on my left femoral neck, which caused the pain in my groin. As this can lead to a fracture I had to take action immediately, which meant withdrawing from all tournaments in July and August, and basically rest, to give it a fair chance to heal. So the last seven weeks I’ve mainly been doing rehab and gradually increased my golf practice, and I started to hit full shots about a week ago.

What has been the highlight of the season, or what have you enjoyed the most?

I had two weeks in a row in March when I played well and finished T6 and T5. During those weeks I also had a good friend caddying for me….we had a lot of fun both on and off the course, so that has definitely been the highlight so far.

Where are you based now and where do you practice?

I’m still based in Sweden and practice at my home club Barsebäck, but I’ve also been up in Halmstad a couple of times as they have built a great practice facility up there called VW Halmstad GolfArena. It’s a links character kind of practice facility, and there is nothing you can’t practice there…they’ve thought about everything!

You were based at Barsebäck before and your coach was there also. Have you made any changes to your team or set-up?

No, not really…the difference from last year would be that I also have a manager this year, Sportyard, and they are also based in Sweden. 

What are you looking forward to the most this year?

Well right now my comeback of course! I just want to start playing golf again without feeling any pain!

The 2012 UNIQA Ladies Golf Open is the first tournament you have defended as a professional. How do you feel about returning to Golfclub Fohrenwaldh?

I’m very excited! I enjoyed playing there last year, so I’m just looking forward to a fun week!

How do you plan to defend your title?

We’ll see…hopefully I can play some good golf, but like I said before I’m just happy to make my comeback, and I’m not going to put too much pressure on myself. At this point I haven’t played a full round of 18 holes since July…my game feels good on the driving range, but that certainly doesn’t mean it will feel good on the course…but I’ll do my best!

Your sister Jacqueline, who caddied for you a lot last year, is also playing. How did that come about? 

She is a great player herself and we played on the Swedish Golf team together for several years and won the Euro Team Championship together 3 times. We started college at the same time, I turned pro after 2 years, but she wanted to finish. In May she graduated and turned pro and has been playing on the Swedish Tour and the LET Access Series and she plans on playing the LET Q-school in December. As I know the promoter has a couple of wild cards, we decided to give a go and asked if they would give her one…and they did! So we are both very excited to come to Austria…me as defending and Jacqueline making her LET debut!

Will there be a friendly or a serious rivalry?

Haha…when we were young we competed against each other a lot, but eventually we got over it and realized that it would be better if we started to support one other instead.

Who is more competitive: you or your sister and can you give us some examples?

I guess it depends on how you define competitiveness…we both hate losing as much, but it’s probably I that initiates most competitions we have. I’m the bad loser though… I always make up excuses…but that’s also to annoy her a little bit…

Who will caddie for you in Austria?

Our mom is coming down to Austria Thursday night, and I guess we haven’t really decided if she’s gonna caddy for me or Jacqueline, but we’ll solve it by next Friday…:)

How well have you prepared for this tournament?

As well as I could have considering the circumstances. It’s obviously not the ideal preparation for a tournament, and it’s a situation I’ve never been in before, but at the same time I know I can score even though my game doesn’t feel 100 per cent so I’m just going to try to make the best out of it!

What do you need to do best to be successful at Golf Club Fohrenwaldh?

Putting well is always a key if you want to win golf tournaments. But I also remember Golf Club Fohrenwald as a fairly short course, so by hitting your wedges and shorter irons well you can attack a lot of pins and give yourself a lot of birdie opportunities. 

How will this help you to prepare for the Ricoh Women’s British Open?

Well right now it’s just good for me to play a tournament to turn that competition mood on!