The Solheim Cup
Rich Harvest Farms
Sugar Grove, Ill.
Aug. 19, 2009
Pre-tournament interviews

European Captain Alison Nicholas

BETHAN CUTLER: We’d like to welcome Alison Nicholas, the 2009 European Team Captain. A participant in six Solheim Cups and also a member of all three of Europe’s victory. How’s everything going?

ALISON NICHOLAS: Yesterday was a bit of a hard day’s night. We had no communication on the radio so it was tough day for me. It’s all sorted. The girls are bubbly and looking good out there. I’m glad yesterday is over. It’s a new day.

Q. What was the problem yesterday?

ALISON NICHOLAS: Just a little bit of organization. You always have these challenges. I’m much happier today. You have good days and bad days and you just keep going. I’ve been out there this morning. Janice Moodie’s just had a hole-in-one at 16. That’s exciting. We had a good night last night, some great messages from Jose Maria Olazabal. We’ve been looking at those videos. That was really encouraging to the team, his experience at the Ryder Cup and his passion came through.

Q. Can you tell us more about the message?

ALISON NICHOLAS: He told us really some of the things that he learned as a Ryder Cup player. Stay focused. Some little bips and bops. Not going to share everything because that’s in the team room. Some really inspirational messages to get the girls thinking for the days ahead. What to cope with and how to cope with it. When you play on foreign soil it’s very different with the fans and the noise you’ll have to deal with. Little things, golden nuggets really. That was good fun. Then I had a video with lots of funny things happening to relax the troops. We had good fun last night. It was a tough day for my support team because of the lack of communication, but it’s a new day and everything is working well.

Q. How was the message made?

ALISON NICHOLAS: It was recorded. Spoken and filmed, looking right at us. Yes, I tried to organize that and fantastic that he was able to do that. I am hugely grateful for that bit of help.

Q. Were you very frustrated yesterday?

ALISON NICHOLAS: I have to say, it’s difficult because communication is important, as you know. If you can’t communicate, because you haven’t got the kit to do it, it takes a bit of time to get things running smoothly. Just to get the drinks and sandwiches, it’s very difficult. I was pretty frustrated yesterday, I have to say.

Q. You have six Solheim Cup’s under your belt, what have you told the young members of your team?

ALISON NICHOLAS: I’ve just talked a little bit. Still have some talks to go yet. Tomorrow night will be the main time I’m going to talk to the players. I tend to do it more on a personal level, one-to-one, and some other players have pitched in, which is great. Some team leaders: (Suzann) Pettersen, Alfie (Helen Alfredsson), it’s a mix and match. I try to do things on a one-to-one basis because I think that helps the players. I think I’ve got some of my other players to talk. Tomorrow night will be the night when I’ll say a few things. We’ve got some motivational, sort of, snippets in the team room. It’s really great. I’m getting the older players to talk to the youngest players. It’s really great today. The girls are really buzzing and everyone is keen to get on with it now.

Q. As a captain, how amazing was Catriona Matthew’s victory at the British Open?

ALISON NICHOLAS: Yeah, phenomenal win after having a second baby and coming back to win the British Open was incredible. It shows her class as a player. I think we’ve all known that she has that class. It happened that week for her.

Q. Has her game come back down or is she still on a high?

ALISON NICHOLAS: Oh, she’s ready. She’s such a laid back character that she just moves on week-to-week. That’s fantastic. She had a very busy week after that week. She was a bit shattered. Could not believe how much attention she got after winning the British. Cameras outside the house and this and that. Interview after interview. We e-mailed last week because it was exactly like that after I won the U.S. Open. People pitching tents out there.

Q. Has it been more stressful to be the captain rather than a player?

ALISON NICHOLAS: Yes, there are moments of stress, no question about that, as a captain. I knew that would be part of the job before I took it on. Doesn’t bother me about watching the golf, it’s the decision making and keeping things right within the team room and providing for everybody the right things for everybody and getting the pairings right. It’s not more stressful than times I was on the team, I have to say. I feel I can handle the rest.

Q. What did you think when Karen Stupples won the week after she was not selected for the European Team?

ALISON NICHOLAS: I was very pleased for Karen. She’s had a tough year and I was delighted to see her win. There’s nothing you can do once the decision has been made and I made the right decision for me at that time. It’s happened quite regularly. Catriona Matthew, when she was left out, won after at the next LPGA event. Lotta Neumann finished second or third after she was not picked. I was pleased for Karen, because that was a tough decision.

Q. Are you happy with what you’ve seen from your team thus far?

ALISON NICHOLAS: They’re playing fantastic. Everyone is just striking it. I’ve got a difficult decision to decide whom to leave out. A great problem to have.

Q. Any surprises from your team?

ALISON NICHOLAS: No, they are a great bunch of individuals, great players. It’s a joy to work with them and be their captain

Q. Has any of your thinking changed as far as pairings go?

ALISON NICHOLAS: Little bit. Just a little bit. I’ve been thinking about it for some time so I’ve got some in the mix. Every player has to play once in the first two days which makes it a bit more complicated, so I’ve had to change things a little bit. I put some structure behind the pairings, but they may change depending on how each series of matches go.

Q. I think most would agree that the Ryder Cup became more interesting when the guest team won abroad, what would it do for the Solheim Cup?

ALISON NICHOLAS: Obviously because the Solheim Cup has been won by America the last two times, there seems to me to be talk about trying to introduce other nations. I think you would destroy the competition completely. It’s been built up over a period of time. It’s unique. Hopefully, whatever happens, we’ll keep the same format. The passion and intensity of this competition is fantastic. You’d take it away if they changed that. It would help if we could win here because the interest would be kept up. I do believe we must keep it the same. You cannot recreate something like this. It’s the showcase of women’s golf and you know how exciting it is. If you change things, you’d destroy that. I’m very opinionated about this, but you’ve got to keep it.

Q. Juli Inkster yesterday said this might be the strongest European Team ever?

ALISON NICHOLAS: (laughter) That’s quite funny. I don’t know really. I feel I have a very strong team, but we’ve been posted as underdogs in every newspaper and magazine I’ve ever read. It’s interesting hearing that from her.

Q. Have you collected those articles?

ALISON NICHOLAS: No, I think the girls are all aware of what goes on in the press. The internet makes it more so. Yeah, I mean, the girls feel they are the underdogs if you look on paper and that’s fine with us. To be honest with you, my focus is on my team and I’m happy to listen to other people’s opinions.

Q. How many Twitter users do you have on your team and are you one of them?

ALISON NICHOLAS: I’m not. I might be something else, but not a Twitterer. I don’t know. I haven’t a clue. I’m sure one of the caddies.

Q. You were nvolved in the first Solheim Cup, what’s your impression of how this event has changed since the inaugural event?

ALISON NICHOLAS: No, it’s very different. At Lake Nona, we had 200 people watching, maybe a few more. It felt like 5,000 or even 100,000 to us because it was an important event to us. It was very small though and has grown tremendously. Now, obviously, it’s not quite like Ryder Cup, but close. It’s a credit to the players and also to both Tours for building it up to what it is. It has changed. I think there were 100 people on the first tee and I was absolutely very, very nervous. You look at that first tee now with the grandstands, the amount of people, the songs are fantastic, thousands of people coming in this week. The atmosphere is electric and it’s a good thing for women’s golf.

Q. Nobody gives you a chance in the papers, is that annoying?

ALISON NICHOLAS: Motiviating, I would think. I read things, but it doesn’t worry me what anyone else says. It’s what my team and I think. I’ve read a few things. I don’t go searching the newspapers everyday. My job is to prepare my team. My focus is on them. It doesn’t worry me because match play is a different game. You can write things on paper, but match play is very level.

Q. Career is parallel with Alfie, take on going from captain to player?

ALISON NICHOLAS: Alfie had some injury issues the year she was captain. She resolved those and says she can play without any pain. She’s been able to get back to playing better than ever. She’s passionate, inspirational, shows emotion, fantastic for the crowd. What a great character. Nice having her on my team because I don’t need to say a huge amount in the team room because Alfredsson does it for me.

Q. Who has been the most maintenance?

ALISON NICHOLAS: They’ve not been too bad. Without a radio I couldn’t do a lot. The maintainence was less. They’re alright. As athletes, we can be demanding because we’re all driven people, but on the whole they mean well. Haven’t had too many problems, but I’ll let you know at the end of the week.

Q. Have you mentioned to your team the 5-0 record Americans have at home?

ALISON NICHOLAS: I haven’t mentioned 5-0 yet, but I think they’re aware that they are 2-0 in the last two. Everyone knows we have not won on American soil. There has to be a first time on some stage in some place. My word is ‘possible.’ I opened that word up to them. I’m sure they’re ready to go to change that into a one.

Q. What have you done in terms of team bonding?

ALISON NICHOLAS: Yeah, we’ve had a little bit. The practice session in Dubai. Some players came here for practice. A lot of talking, e-mails. It’s much more difficult now because the LPGA schedule was reduced a bit. I could play on the LPGA in the beginning of the year and then in Europe during the summer. So it’s been difficult for me to talk to players. With the passion of the players and the characters on my side, as soon as you get to gether, it’s like you haven’t been apart. They’re up for it. They’re buzzing. I’ve got some very good players on my team and they’re all playing well.

Q. Did you have a connection with Oli (Olazabal) to do the message?

ALISON NICHOLAS: I wish I had a connection to him. I don’t really. I think he’s a passionate player. I can’t remember where it was when they won in the States and he did that little dance. His passion is incredible. He’s won major championships. Crucial in winning some Ryder Cup’s in the past. Because of his experience and passion and that Spanish culture, it comes through. It seeps through the whole team. You’ve watched Ryder Cup’s. He’s punching the air, you’re punching the air. I thought it was a great move to make. I don’t actually know Oli, but he was happy to do it. I’ve got some other ones but I can’t reveal them right now.

Q. With players from different cultures, beneficial to blend personalities?

ALISON NICHOLAS: It’s more of a challenge. I talked to Alfie about that. Obviously, her experience as captain is tremendous. I talked to her a lot at Evian and British. She felt it has become more difficult because we have got more nations within the European Team. We have a plan to get those personalities to work and get them together. Different languages. When they start talking to each other I haven’t an idea what’s going on. It can help if players can speak their own language and play together.

Q. No sense of paranoia if players are talking about you in Swedish?

ALISON NICHOLAS: They don’t call me Alison. The Biggest, Big Al, Biggest One of All, Ali occasionally. Capitano, that’s the other one.