Suzann Pettersen won fans in debut
The Solheim Cup will be played for the 13th time, beginning Friday at the Colorado Golf Club, just outside of Denver. There have been highs and lows, triumph and heartache for both teams through the years, moments the players will never forget. This week, espnW will highlight that history as six Solheim standouts share their favorite memories.
Suzann Pettersen, Norway
Six appearances, 12-8-5 record
So much for that cool Nordic reserve. Suzann Pettersen, then a 21-year-old Norwegian playing in her first Solheim Cup, was really excited. So much so, she couldn't contain herself.
"The stuff that can happen on live TV," Pettersen says now with a bemused smile.
It was at the 2002 Solheim, played at Interlachen Country Club in suburban Minneapolis. Pettersen had played two foursomes matches with a Swede known for her "un-Swedish," very emotional temperament, Helen Alfredsson.
The Europeans led 9-7 after the team portion of the competition. Could they hold on in singles?
Pettersen had turned pro in 2000 but didn't join the LPGA Tour until 2003. So for the 2002 Solheim competition, the American audience for golf was not familiar with her. It soon would be.
With five holes to go, Pettersen trailed by five against U.S. veteran and Minnesota native Michele Redman, who had a big gallery. Redman had the match all but won. The best Pettersen could hope for was to halve it, but that seemed highly unlikely.
Yet that's exactly what happened, with Pettersen storming back to win the last five holes and earning a half-point that, at the time, seemed crucial. Quickly, NBC went to a live interview with the pumped-up Pettersen, whose English was impeccable, even down to her command of curse words. She dropped an f-bomb -- not in Norwegian -- out of pure joy.
"There's adrenaline and emotions and excitement. It just all happened right there," Pettersen said. "But that's why I love the event; There's so much of those things all week."
As it turned out, the Americans dominated singles that day and won the Cup. But Pettersen's remarkable salvage job in her match, followed by (if you have a sense of humor) a hilarious slip of the tongue, earned the young Norwegian plenty of new fans. She would soon be an LPGA regular.
Now, a little over a decade later, Pettersen is the No. 3-ranked player in the world. She's a winner of 11 LPGA titles and more than $10 million in prize money. And she's the stalwart of Team Europe for the Solheim Cup. She has competed in the event six times, including in 2005, when she played in just nine LPGA events because of a serious back injury.
In fact, Pettersen has carried the mantle of top European on the LPGA Tour since Sweden's Annika Sorenstam retired in 2008. And if you ask Pettersen what memories she cherishes most from her Solheim Cup play, she'll pay tribute to Sorenstam.
"I must say, I value very highly the moments that I played alongside Annika," Pettersen said. "Getting to know her, getting inside her head, what she was thinking, how she handled things.
"Annika was a role model to me; we are from the same part of the world. A lot that I learned from Annika was mental management, her fighting spirit. That's the part that's grown with me over the years: You never give up, you never let your teammates down."
Pettersen displayed that mindset with her 2011 Solheim match against Michelle Wie. Pettersen birdied the final three holes to triumph 1-up, part of the European surge in singles that won them the Cup in Ireland.
"I'll always remember that match. You can have those personal stories and moments," Pettersen said. "But at the end of the day, it's, 'How did my team do?'
"For a lot of us -- especially on the European side -- the friendships come naturally. And you don't want to disappoint your friends. It just makes you dig that much deeper."