Mark Townsend meets Europe’s Solheim Cup captain
In eight months Europe will defend the Solheim Cup for the first time on home soil. At the helm will be Carin Koch.
In Colorado Koch was part of Lotta Neumann’s backroom team where the visitors trounced the United States 18-10 – the largest winning total in the competition’s history – as two other Swedes, Caroline Hedwall and Anna Nordqvist, broke new ground. Hedwall became the first player from either side to win all five matches while Nordqvist, playing with Hedwall, made the first hole-in-one.
Koch’s previous dalliances with the cup are equally as monumental. In 2000 she holed the winning putt at Loch Lomond, part of a perfect three-from-three debut. It then took her 10 matches, three years after Scotland, before she suffered her first loss. Come the close of her Solheim career her record stood at 10 wins and three halves from 16 matches.
Three of us were lucky enough to be led by the 43-year-old at a media day for the Ladies European Masters at The Buckinghamshire where, through her own example, she managed to cajole her team-mates to a respectable finish. She’s fun, chatty and engaging and Europe are lucky to have her. But you wouldn’t want to play against her.
How much of a surprise was it to be given the captaincy?
It wasn’t that much of a surprise, I kind of thought it was coming. The only hesitation I had was how much time it was going to take but that wasn’t going to make me change my mind. My sons are 15 and 11 so it’s important to be at home.
Do they think their mum being the Solheim Cup captain is cool?
I think so, they don’t always want to say that but I know they are excited to go. My eldest son went to Colorado last year so my youngest, who caddied for me recently, wants to have his turn. He was a good caddy for being 11.
Your playing record was incredible, not losing until your 10th match?
I have always been good in matchplay. Sometimes in strokeplay I can be a little bit too careful as there is a score at the end. I had missed out in ‘96 and in ‘98 I was seven months pregnant so 2000 was a long time coming.
Were you always in form going into the matches?
I didn’t feel like I was in 2003, my son was only born five months previously so I had only played for a month and a half so I was coming into form.
Do you ever properly relax?
It is important to have a good atmosphere in the team room so that the players get a chance to relax and forget the pressure for a little while. There is so much going on playing in any big tournament and especially the Solheim Cup. The big crowds, the interviews and of course the pressure of playing in what will be one of the biggest weeks of your career.
Did it help to be a bit older to play in your first match?
I like to say more experienced rather than older! Yes I think it helped. I was also partnered with some great players who I was very comfortable with.
How would your playing partners describe you?
Pretty easy going and positive but I wanted to win and would never give up. There is something in me that makes me keep going and believe in the best possible outcome.
You won four and a half points in 2002 – how easy is it to play at such a high level for three days?
I was 12 weeks pregnant but feeling great and I was on a high from having a great year! I did not want the media to know, there is enough pressure and stories in a Solheim Cup week. And I did not want the captain, Dale Reid, to know because she may have rested me and I really wanted to play all the matches. So I knew why Caroline Hedwall wanted to play all five matches in Colorado. She had so much confidence and knew she would play great.
In 2002 I was lucky because I thought my clothes would not fit and everyone would figure out why as the fitting had been a few months prior. But several players had the same problem that year!
Is it likely that someone will do likewise in Germany next year?
I wouldn’t be against someone doing it but it’s been very important to rest our ‘best players’ in winning the last two matches. Back then we had to play our leading players more often. Now we have more of a luxury.
You never lost a foursomes match in 10 outings, what made you so skilled at alternate shots?
It is being comfortable and confident with your partner. I hit a lot of fairways and greens which made me a good partner. If you have a sort of similar game then I think that helps and my putting was always great at Solheim Cups and that is key in match play!.
How much pressure does it add to partner the World No 1 in Annika?
I had never really thought of that! We started well together and she liked the fact that I hit a lot of fairways and greens and I always putted so well. I even played a harder ball after Solheim as we played her Callaway but it was the matchplay, not the ball, that made me more aggressive.
Every Solheim Cup I would come away thinking that was how I was now going to play regularly but I found it impossible to do.
Was Charley Hull always going to be a wild card in 2013?
Lotta made the decision on the Sunday. Annika and I agreed.
In the lead up of the matches we chatted a little extra with her and also the rest of the players who had not played on American soil before in what to expect of the home crowds.
It is so different from playing in Europe when the crowds are on your side. We had a chat with the whole team about what to expect. We even had it on the practice days, we would be going off the 10th and they would make big announcements over the loud speaker on the 1st tee.
How confident were the team?
We were pretty confident, there was such a good atmosphere but you never know how the six rookies were going to handle it. In practice days we had stats for fairways and greens and some players’ numbers weren’t that great but then they were the ones who came out and played great under pressure. You don’t know who is going to perform.
We have always had a good togetherness which is amazing. For some matches I had barely met some of the team as I was playing in the States but we always connected as a team and that has shown in the fourballs and foursomes.
It is more a European thing to get in the team spirit, in 2013 it was even more. Charley was the one who people didn’t know but she was so easy going and made everybody laugh.
What are you like at handling criticism?
That is going to be tough not to care what other people think. Even though it is team of captain and vice captains, it is the captain who has to take the responsibility of the choices.
What does Annika bring to things?
She is very good with stats! She has so much knowledge from competing on a high level and she has so much respect from the players. In 2013 she was great at giving pep talks and bunker lessons.
With special thanks to www.nationalclubgolfer.com