There are few things more synonymous in sport than Suzann Pettersen and the Solheim Cup.
From her debut appearance as a 21-year-old at Interlachen Country Club in Minnesota back in 2002, the Norwegian has been something of a constant presence in representing the Yellow and Blue for the past two decades.
With victories in 2003, 2011, 2013 and 2019 to her name, the 40-year-old is no stranger to producing the goods when the pressure is on, as her last ever involvement as a golf player will attest, when she won the Cup in the most dramatic fashion of them all.
You probably don’t even need it describing to you – as it’s etched into the memory of any golf fan who was watching that day – but with the crowd silent and the tension palpable, Pettersen holing the winning putt on the 18th at Gleneagles two years ago is proof enough that Team Europe have a driven, unflappable winner at the helm heading into 2023.
Of all her 18 match victories in the Cup throughout the years, nothing comes close to that moment on the last, and who better to be leading the charges at Finca Cortesin in two years’ time than someone who relishes the big occasions, and thrives off of the pressure that the Solheim Cup brings.
“I feel the Solheim Cup in general has defined me as a player,” the Team Europe captain said. “It has helped me feel more comfortable in the most pressured situations and it is because of the team players you have around you supporting you and being there, holding your back and I have learned a lot.
“It is a dream come true to finally be standing here as the next European Solheim Cup captain. I’m super excited and happy to be here. For me being in Spain, I have close relations here and I spend a lot of time in this area.
“My first memory was my first one in Minnesota back in 2002. Since then it has been a fantastic journey with a lot of highs and some losses but at the end of the day, it has been a fantastic career and I love the Solheim Cup.
“I love the fighting spirit and how we come together as a team and fight for one another. It is a lot of fun.”
After retiring on the spot after that historical moment in Scotland, Pettersen was one of Catriona Matthew’s vice-captains for this year’s edition at Inverness Club, as Team Europe defended their title with a magnificent showing from start to finish in Ohio.
That experience will have been invaluable in learning the ropes for what is in store for 2023, with Matthew creating a togetherness and team spirit within everyone who wore the blue that week, which was pivotal in delivering in front of a partisan home crowd.
And the two-time Major winner isn’t short on inspiration from her playing days either, having played under the leadership of the likes of Dale Reid, Alisson Nicholas and Annika Sorenstam when she was the one with the club in her hands.
The duo of Pettersen and Sorenstam were also an unbeatable force when put together to play the Americans, with the Scandinavian duo winning both of their pairings in 2003 en route to victory, before two further successes in 2005 and 2007.
Pettersen has seen it, been there and done it when it comes to golf – let alone Solheim – so the transition to the top seemed nothing more than the next natural step in an illustrious career.
“I feel like I have been so lucky to play with so many icons of the game from my early days until now and seeing the young, new talents coming through and hopefully they will keep coming,” she said.
“It is definitely a different approach being more in the captaincy role. Beany did a fantastic job, as did most, and we just tried to support her and make her feel good about her decisions.
“I think it all comes down to the teamwork that you put down and make the players feel as good as they can to go out there and play their best golf.”
You only have to look at some of the young talent on show on the LET this season to realise that the future in European golf is looking as bright as ever, with a number of young stars breaking through in 2021.
Both 17-year-old Pia Babnik and 21-year-old Maja Stark won twice on Tour this year, proving they have what it takes to cut it on the highest stage, while 2021 Solheim reserve Alice Hewson continues to impress with another stellar campaign to finish in the top ten of the Race to Costa del Sol.
With two more years’ experience under their belts we could well be seeing at least one of those names take to the greens in Finca Cortesin in 2023, and as a player who made her bow at 21 herself, Pettersen will have no fear in trusting the next generation.
“I’m very excited. At this stage, I feel like I know a lot of the players but in two years’ time we might have a lot of new young players,” she continued.
“I think my biggest role from now until then is being out there and getting to know them and building relationships. At the end of the day, having learned from Beany and the other captains that I have been with, communication is everything.
“I can’t wait and I don’t think you have to look much further than who played on the European PING Junior Solheim Cup Team in Toledo to find some future potential players.”
In the time Pettersen has been involved in the Solheim Cup the competition has grown massively, with 2023 promising to be one of the biggest ever.
The stunning surroundings of Finca Cortesin, in Spain’s Costa Del Sol, provide the perfect backdrop for Europe and the USA to go head to head, as the Solheim Cup makes its way to Spain for the very first time.
And with the home crowd promising to be as energetic and enthusiastic as ever, the new captain knows that backing will make all the difference when the best players in the world come to compete for the biggest prize in women’s golf.
“I think is going to be a really fun matchplay course with some risk/reward holes. In general I think it is going to be a lot of fun and hopefully we’ll get some Spanish vibe in the crowd,” Pettersen said.
“There’s going to be a lot of ‘Vamos’ around this place and hopefully we can have a few Spanish players playing which would help.
“I think embracing this fantastic venue is key. There is so much golf and golfing history around this region, so I’m very happy to be here. This is like my second home so I will work on my Spanish along the way as well.
“The Solheim Cup has become the biggest stage in women’s sport and women’s golf. It is a fantastic platform for us to showcase the brilliance and the talents that these players have and to be a part of it one more time in a different role is a great honour.”