“Isn’t it amazing that we, the Italians, are so well-placed in the rankings in both the male and the female game?” asks Diana Luna, 30, a real Roman and protagonist of the Ladies European Tour for 12 seasons. Luna was the first Italian to play in The Solheim Cup in 2009. We’re chatting on the phone one morning, and she has just left her daughter Elena, a three-year-old girl in her cot.
It is true, Italy is a very small country from a golf perspective, with only 100,000 players, but the ratio between quality and quantity is truly amazing – and Diana is the perfect example . “We have so few players, but think of Matteo Manassero, the Molinari brothers, to Giulia Sergas and her performance in the US.”
It was probably because of the success of the Italians in golf (like Constantino Roca) that Diana, at age 19, followed the road of professionalism: “It was never in my plans before, and I was not so convinced even when I took the LET card, at the first attempt in the Qualifying School in 2001. I was enrolled in my first year of University and I told myself that it was worth a try with the Tour for two or three years. If it did not work, I’d come back to study seriously. Although in reality I had no clear idea of what I could become if I had not become a successful professional player: I chose Economics and Commerce School not because I particularly liked it, but because it was the one that gave me the greatest chance of professional opportunities, ” she says, amused.
But golf, however, was already in her blood ever since she was a little girl aged 12, when her brother Giovanni, a few years older than her, passed on the passion. The difficult course Golf Nazionale, (home of the men’s World Cup in 1991), north of Rome, helped her to become a more precise player and gritty in her character. Diana had an outstanding amateur career, and became a regular member of the Italian National Team , winning various titles, including the under-21 European Team. “I trained so much, according to the rather strict but loving education I had received from my parents: I was always left free to do what I wanted, but I had to put in the maximum effort. And so, I decided to turn pro.” She already had her first experience of what life on tour would be, when, in 2001, still an amateur, she was invited by the Italian Federation to play the Italian Open at Poggio dei Medici in Tuscany: “I liked the family atmosphere immediately, the high level of play in the tournament that was accompanied by friendship after the game, when you could relax and chat together, at the bar or on the putting green. ” Because, as she has been experiencing since then, the Ladies European Tour is like a big family, “Even if you’re a rookie, you are immediately welcomed by all, there is warmth and sharing. There is not, for example, a player having dinner by herself, alone. It is this family atmosphere that has conquered me, and it is for this reason that I would not change my career in Europe with the one in the LPGA, United States. Of course, there are higher prize funds, but that lifestyle in the US does not fit my character and my priorities. I’d rather be poorer, but happier.”
The priority for Diana is her family first. She married her husband Fabio Orlandini del Beccuto in 2005 and her daughter, Elena, arrived in the spring of 2010. They live in the south of France, where Fabio is a popular teacher at the famous Golf di Cannes Mandelieu , and Diana practices at Cannes Mougins under the guidance of Roger Damiano. “With the arrival of Elena I had to review my schedule, obviously. I do not want to be away from my baby for too long, especially now that she needs me more than when she was a baby. I would like her to have a regular life, surrounded by her world and things she likes. I forced myself not to get along without her more than a week: so, if there are three consecutive tournaments, we make sure that she travels with me in the week between, while in the other weeks, she stays with Fabio, who is a super dad and collaborative.”
Mum and wife, but also a real professional in golf: Diana won five titles in the Ladies European Tour – the first in 2004, the Tenerife Open, then in 2009 the AIB Ladies Irish Open and the SAS Ladies Masters, and in 2011 the UniCredit Ladies German Open (where she completed 4 rounds without a single bogey) and the Deutsche Bank Ladies Swiss Open, and made her debut in The Solheim Cup in 2009, in Illinois, playing two matches – the four-ball the second day in tandem with the Scot Catriona Matthew, who played versus Stanford-Lang, and the singles match on Final Day against the American Nicole Castrale, won by 3&2.
Diana Luna with the European Team in 2009
Diana is currently in 14th place in the EU Solheim Cup points, with 54.89 points. “How much you would like to be back in the team?, we asked her: “A lot!! The experience of 2009 was undoubtedly the most beautiful one I’ve ever lived, when talking about golf. Two moments in particular have remained indelible: the Opening Ceremony, with the national anthem sung by a children’s choir and a military man who helped me to unfold the flag. And then the first shot of the match: we all agree on this, even the veterans, is an emotion to which you do not get used. Sometimes on the putting green or walking from green to next tee, you can hear the screams and applause from the audience, your heart starts to beat, that you can feel it in your throat and you say to yourself, ‘Help! Now it’s my turn’ … There is no comparison with any other event. And then the cheering, which of course was primarily from the U.S., but we had quite a number of followers. When I passed along they started singing: ‘O’ sole mio ‘… “.
Luna and Matthew in 2009
Now it is less than 50 days to the Solheim Cup in Colorado, and the captain, Liselotte Neumann, in addition to eight players directly qualified by the LET and Rolex World Rankings, will have four wild cards for the team. “I know that Lotta will be able to choose the people with justice. I love matchplay, I have always given my best in this kind of competition. So I would like to deserve the place by qualifying between now and 28 July, the date of ISPS Handa Ladies European Masters, the penultimate tournament to grab some points: I will do my best to fulfill my desire to return to represent Europe in the Solheim Cup. “