The year 2009 has been a defining one for Spain’s Tania Elosegui. After narrowly missing out to Laura Davies at the Women’s Australian Open in February she finally earned her breakthrough victory at the ABN AMRO Ladies Open in the Netherlands in June, playing in her fourth season on the Ladies European Tour.
Following her win, she qualified for her first Solheim Cup appearance and represented Europe in style at Rich Harvest Farms in Sugar Grove, Illinois, in August, earning one point for the European team when she and Helen Alfredsson defeated Angela Stanford and Juli Inkster 1 up in the Friday morning four ball matches.
Tania played in three matches overall, and gave an awesome performance in the singles, but was ultimately defeated 2 up by US star Christina Kim.
Here the 27-year-old from San Sebastian talks about her first Solheim Cup experience, and how she can’t wait to make the team again when it forms in Ireland in two years’ time.
Qualifying for your Solheim Cup debut, what did that mean to you?
It was really important to me. It was a reflection of everything I had done over many years when I always tried to improve my game to live this kind of experience.
How did you prepare for the tournament?
I didn’t do anything out of the ordinary. I trained the way that I always do but I tried to focus my practise time on putting, because, in the end, putting always decides the match. I also worked on my mental confidence to try to cope with the pressure.
You were a rookie on the team. How did the other team members treat you and did any offer you any tips or advice?
I always felt really supported by my captain and vice-captains and by the most experienced teammates. They told me about what I would feel like on the first tee on the first day. I could prepare myself for that moment because they gave me advice when I needed it. The “tips” were about how to sign autographs; I wasn’t used to signing so many.
How well did you get along with your four-ball partner Helen Alfredsson?
Playing with Alfie was amazing. I could share all her insights and experience in The Solheim Cup and at the most important tournaments. I could feel her strength and how she grows stronger in pressurised situations. I learned and I enjoyed it a lot!
Which language did you use to speak to each other and how did that help you?
We talked a little bit in Spanish together. To speak in your own language helps a lot in these kinds of moments. However she naturally made me feel very, very comfortable.
What were the highlights of the week for you?
Alfie holed a putt at the 18th to make a birdie and to win the fourballs game on the first day. Anna Nordqvist did the same to win her game with Suzann. Also, Cristie Kerr holed her shot on the 12th for eagle from more than 100m away and that stands out for me.
What were the differences between playing at The Solheim Cup and in a regular Ladies European Tour event?
There are a lot of differences. The first one is a team competition where you play just for the team. You also play match play and we never play it on the LET although it is really fun. In The Solheim Cup we played in front of thousands of people every day, including on the practice days. They followed us, asking for autographs, shouting our names. We are not used to playing in front of so many spectators. And finally, the course was perfect because in the month before the Solheim, only 20 people stepped on the grass. The course was longer and the greens were excellent.
How did you feel on the first tee?
I enjoyed the moment all I could. It was magic for me to live that experience, that moment, to be on that first tee on the first day at the most important women’s tournament in the world. Everybody told me to enjoy it and I did. I enjoyed it despite the nerves I felt.
Christina Kim is well known for firing up the galleries. What did you think about the behaviour when you played against her in the singles?
I think that if you know Christina’s personality, her attitude during the competition was really normal, even more so if you consider how the American crowd love and support this sport. She was in her country with the public on her side, and she knew that it was very important to help her win her games and she benefited from it.
How pleased were you with your performance and what did others say to you afterwards?
I have received a lot of praise since the tournament and it is really nice to hear so many kind words about my game and my attitude, so I feel really thankful. However, I always want more so I would have liked my team to earn more points, because I am competitive.
Was the US crowd fair to the European team, in your opinion?
Sincerely, they were fantastic. They applauded all the good shots and they recognised when we made a good putt or a good job; they even gave us supporting words. They were really fair.
How did you cope with the noise and chanting of USA?
The noise and the shouts were so exaggerated but sometimes I didn’t hear them. The funny thing was that when I arrived at the green and looked at the crowd shouting and clapping, I thought that it was for me.
What effect has The Solheim Cup had on you as a player?
I have just realised that I deserve to play in The Solheim Cup again. I will train really hard to be ready to live the same experience I lived that week and, of course, to win the Solheim Cup and bring it back to Europe.
What are your new objectives now?
My objectives haven’t changed. I still want to grow as a player and to do my best every week.
How is your coach Marta Figueras Dotti helping you to prepare for the next steps?
Marta has always helped me a lot from when I met her as a national team coach until now in my most successful year as a professional. I’m sure she will continue to help. She helps me to get better every day so we are going to work together to change all the things I need to improve.
How confident are you feeling for the future?
I believe in my work. I am going to train really hard because I think that this is the right path for me.
This year you won your first tournament at the ABN AMRO Ladies Open in the Netherlands. How much did this mean to you?
One of my objectives this season was to win a LET tournament. My first LET Tournament meant I had improved my skills. It means I have done something good up until now.
With six tops ten finishes, why do you feel you have made such a big improvement this year?
I have been improving since my first year as a professional, polishing things I thought I needed to improve, my weak skills. I prepared myself physical and mentally. I just think I am better because now I am feeling like a more complete golfer.
You took some time off after The Solheim Cup. Why was that?
I didn’t go to Finland because I knew The Solheim Cup week would be really intense so I finished really tired. I was right. My family was in San Sebastián and I wanted to spend time with them and with my friends.
What do you feel has been the biggest achievement of your career so far?
I would say the victory in the Netherlands but also when you overcome yourself when your game doesn’t work and you must fight and train the day after.
When did you know you wanted to be a professional golfer?
When I was studying for my degree in Spain I didn’t have enough time to train. In the third year I realised I wanted to have all this time to be a better golf player.
What, if any, other sports do you play and are you any good?
My first sport was tennis. I began when I was 5 and I played until I was 14. When I was a child I used to practice all kind of sports: football, basketball, paddle, skateboarding and skiing. Today I still practice tennis, snowboarding and kite surfing. I use the skate board to get me around San Sebastián.
What do you like most about playing golf professionally?
I meet all kinds of people. I have lived unforgettable experiences and I have shared a lot with my close friends on Tour. Also I can make a living from what I love to do: play golf.
How much of an influence has Jose Maria Olazábal played in your career?
A lot. When I was a kid I admired him when I saw him in the club and I still admire him.
What languages you speak… Spanish, French and English
Favourite golf course… Soto Grande (Spain)
Where you’d like to go on holiday… Any mountain with a ski station
Your best friend… Many
Any pets…. no
Any brothers or sisters…. 2 brothers
Who do you most admire… as a sportsman Jose Maria Olazábal and as a person my mum
Favourite drink…. Cold Coke or a good Gin and tonic
How would you spend a perfect day…. skiing, a movie in the afternoon and dinner with some friends.