Ten-time Major winner Annika Sorenstam is hoping to pass on her knowledge and experience as Captain of the European PING Junior Solheim Cup team.
The legendary Swedish star, who played in the Solheim Cup eight times, was named as Captain for Team Europe last year and is looking forward to the competition.
The PJSC, which was first played in 2002, will see the top 12 European junior amateurs play their American counterparts on September 1-2, at Sylvania Country Club, Toledo, United States, located 15 minutes from the Solheim Cup venue, Inverness Club.
We met up with Annika at Isaberg Golf Club in Sweden during her tournament, the ANNIKA Invitational Europe, to hear more about her thoughts and commitment to junior golf development.
“I’m super excited and honoured to be the captain of this year’s European PING Junior Solheim Cup team. The Solheim Cup has a huge place in my heart – the competition, the memories. It is a big part of my career having played in it eight times, been a Vice Captain and a Captain. Now I round out as Junior captain,” said Sorenstam.
The Covid-19 pandemic has meant the qualification process for this year’s competition will be different to other years.
The European team will be picked based on performances at the original PJSC qualifying tournaments, performances at other national and international tournaments, input from national coaches and input from Sorenstam.
Despite the differences, Sorenstam believes she has a good idea of the talent in Europe and feels good about the process.
She said: “Many of these girls have played in ANNIKA Invitationals, so I feel I have got my finger on the pulse and there are some really good players from Europe right now. They are very young with talent, very mature and very focused. It will be very different as far as picking the team and the players playing in their home country, playing in Europe and getting through all the rules and regulations. We are going to rely a lot on statistics, rely on talking to the national coaches and getting a feel for the players and what they are working on and their potential. We feel good about it.”
And Sorenstam will have former LET player Nora Angehrn by her side to help pick the team that will head to the United States.
“If you think of PJSC, it’s an amazing concept. It’s the prelude to the big Solheim Cup but it has so many great activities and many great memories they create,”she said. “The level of competition and golf is extremely high, and it is an amazing for these young girls. I have a good assistant captain, Nora Angehrn, she’s from Switzerland and she’s very much in the mix of junior golf and I will be turning to her for some good input.”
Since retiring from playing, Sorenstam has been involved in the development of women’s golf around the world. The ANNIKA Foundation hosts seven global events for junior girls that sees 600 plus girls compete annually.
With 72 wins on the LPGA including 10 Majors and 18 LET titles to her name, the Swedish legend brings a vast amount of experience with her and hopes to create a fun environment during the competition.
“I think really the role as captain is to make sure that the girls are comfortable, they are happy and there is a nice, relaxed atmosphere so they can perform at the highest level, but also to create these memories,”she explained.
“It is not going to be so much about teaching them technique – it is more about strategy; match play is so different and just how to prepare for tournaments. I will be sharing some of my thoughts and experiences and my knowledge. I look forward to that and I want to have fun and create an atmosphere where you can laugh and have a good time. I think that’s going to be the key. I want them to feel part of it, I want them to talk, and it needs to be teamwork. Everybody has a role to play. It’s going to be fun.”
The PJSC is an integral part of the Solheim Cup experience with junior golfers from both sides of the Atlantic having the opportunity to gain international match play experience, as well as the chance to meet, learn and be inspired by the professional players.
Many Solheim Cup players in recent years have played the PJSC including Carlota Ciganda, Anne Van Dam, Lexi Thompson and Nelly Korda.
She added: “It warms my heart to see the players do so well, and that is why we have these tournaments, it is to help them on their journey to adulthood and whether that includes golf or other things, we want to prepare them for that. I’m excited. I think girls golf and women’s golf is in a good place right now.”