|Browse by Sport
|Find us on
March 30, 2016
Rancho Mirage, California
THE MODERATOR: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen from the ANA Inspiration, the first major of the year. On behalf of the Ladies European Tour and Solheim Cup Europe, thank you for being here today for one of the most exciting announcements in golf, as we unveil the 2017 European Solheim Cup captain. It is my pleasure to introduce on stage to my immediate left, John Solheim, Chairman and CEO of Ping, and Ivan Khodabakhsh, Ladies European Tour CEO.
Shortly we'll be meeting the new European captain who is one of the most decorated and experienced players in history. Not only did she earn 89 worldwide titles, including 10 major championships, she's been part of 11 Solheim Cups, eight as a player and three as a vice-captain. Ladies and gentlemen, please put your hands together as we welcome to the stage the legend that is Annika Sorenstam.
ANNIKA SORENSTAM: Thank you.
THE MODERATOR: On behalf of the Ladies European Tour, Ivan would like to say a few words.
IVAN KHODABAKHSH: We are absolutely thrilled from the Ladies European Tour side to have such a legend, such a player who had so much influence in the history of golf in women's golf to become the Solheim Cup captain. I had the opportunity firsthand to see Annika on two occasions of being vice-captain of the Solheim Cup, and I was amazed by her professionalism and how much she contributed to the team.
She has had already four wins for the Solheim Cup, two as players and two as vice-captain. We are extremely thrilled to have her because we share very much the values she has in growing the game and inspiring juniors, young girls to come to the sport. These are exactly the same values of the Ladies European Tour, and we believe that the Solheim Cup is an amazing tournament which will enable us to inspire new generations of girls picking up this sport.
So the unanimous decision of the selection committee was a thrilling experience for us and we congratulate Annika for the captaincy.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Ivan. So the Solheim Cup is named after Karsten and Louise Solheim of Karsten Manufacturing Corporation, the parent company of Ping. Now we'll hear from the chairman and CEO, John Solheim.
JOHN SOLHEIM: This is really great, Annika, congratulations. I'm looking forward to an exciting event in Des Moines. I think we're going to see a lot more strategy happening with the captains we have, especially you. We're in for a really special event coming up. You know, the challenge is going to be there and it's going to be fun watching her work. But it was also fun watching her shoot a 59 one time. So that was -- we got the ultimate here. Thank you.
ANNIKA SORENSTAM: Thank you.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Mr. Solheim and for your contribution to women's golf and this amazing competition. Now we'll hear from our new captain, Annika. Please tell us how much you're looking forward to this challenging new role.
ANNIKA SORENSTAM: Well, first of all, thank you very much to both gentlemen up here. I cannot tell you how excited I am. I had hoped and I had dreamed that this opportunity would come along. If I look back in my career, the Solheim Cup has always been an important part of it. We play as individuals for 99% of the time, but when we do get together it's just something special.
So a lot of my memories in my career go back to the Solheim Cup. So when I started playing, I was hoping that I would continue to be involved and getting a chance to be a vice-captain was really eye opening. But I thought one day when I'm ready I would love to get this opportunity, and I felt like 2017 I would be ready. Luckily the Tour, I got the support from the Tour, so this is really going to be a lot of fun.
Certainly a different role than I'm used to, but I'm really looking forward to getting to work and getting to know the players. I mean, it's all about the competition. It's all about building memories, and that's really, I think, our goal to grow the game through the Solheim Cup. It's already started really well, but we've got to continue to take advantage of the opportunity we had.
THE MODERATOR: Yesterday the ANA Inspiring Women in Sports conference, you mentioned the Solheim Cup is one of your career highlights. Why is that?
ANNIKA SORENSTAM: It's just hard to explain, but when you get together as a team when you represent your country or your continent, there is just something a little extra than when you play in individual events. The memories that you build with your friends and playing in a match play coming down the stretch. I would never forget 2003 in Sweden in BarsebĂ¤ck and Suzann was my partner in one of the matches. It was just so exciting. The atmosphere was so electrifying.
Put everything aside, you stand there over the putt and Suzann made her putt and it's just something you share with your teammates. It's hard to reproduce in individual events. So I think that's why I look at the Solheim Cup as being so special. Also, we only play every other year, so you really look forward to it. I would say that most players, if they set up goals for the year, the Solheim Cup and making the team is probably one of the top few.
THE MODERATOR: So you were three times the vice-captain under Alison Nicholas, Liselotte Neumann, and Carin Koch, what did you learn from that experience?
ANNIKA SORENSTAM: I learned a lot. First, I would say as a player you go in there and play, you really don't think about what happens behind the scene. But being the vice-captain I saw the hard work they put in. The two years of preparation, and it's so much more than just thinking about who is going to play with whom, et cetera.
So I really respect the captains. I really respect what they did. I think that's when I realized I wasn't ready for the job. You need to fully commit. You really need to get involved and get to know the players. So I saw it from the sideline. But then also I was intrigued by the opportunity, and I said I would love to do this day when I'm ready.
THE MODERATOR: What are your plans of preparation for regaining the trophy from the United States team?
ANNIKA SORENSTAM: Well, you know, this is so new already, but of course I've started to think a little bit. But I think the most important thing now is to work with the Ladies European Tour and put together a plan who is going to do what, and can I get familiarized with what they want me to do. I think the goal is, we know what the goal is. Now we're going to work backwards, and how do we get there?
Just, again, I just want to introduce myself to most of the players on the European Tour. They might have known I played there, but I haven't said hi to anybody, so just start that communication. I think that's the most important. I know we'll put a good plan together, and of course we've got to execute. That's the most important.
THE MODERATOR: By now I'm sure you've got plenty of questions for your new captain.
Q. You and Juli have played at the same time. Is that going to make a special intensity to this competition? You guys went at each other in quite a few majors?
ANNIKA SORENSTAM: We have. I respect Juli tremendously. She's done a lot for the game and certainly been a role model in so many ways. So I look forward to working with her and playing against her as a team. I think this tournament has gotten to a different level the last few years. So I'm just going to really just follow what my players want to do and do our best. But to be able to have Juli on the other side certainly makes it even more special.
Q. As you know the intensity of this has really ratcheted up the last couple years, especially last year. As a captain, how do you strike a balance between the intensity of wanting to win and the sportsmanship that really came into focus last year?
ANNIKA SORENSTAM: That's a good question (laughing). Yeah, it was quite intense last year. I've been part of a few intense Solheims. But I think it also, that's kind of what makes the tournament the way it is. But our goals have always been to go in there and have a good time, play some good golf and showcase the very best of women's golf, and I think that's going to continue. Nothing's going to change.
But when you get together and everybody's so passionate, everybody's so engaged, everybody's so -- you know, they just want to win, sometimes it gets very emotional. But I think we're just going to keep reminding ourselves we all learned from what's happened in the past, and we all grow and mature and hopefully you'll see that next time.
Q. Golf is back in the Olympics for the first time in more than 100 years and a lot of these golfers that haven't had maybe as much experience on teams will now get that opportunity to represent something much bigger than themselves. Are you going to be paying kind of close attention to the Olympians and how they perform with the Solheim Cup on your mind?
ANNIKA SORENSTAM: Yeah, I think, again, we have a few months to get ready for Des Moines next year. So there are a few things that will happen in the meantime. We start with the Olympics. I'll be there can covering the women's competition, I look forward to that, but I'll be starting to scout players tomorrow keeping an eye on them and getting to know them. But I think the Olympics is a great way to grow the game of golf and certainly goes hand in hand both with the LET and LPGA working together.
Q. What was the lesson to be taken out of the Suzann Pettersen, Alison Lee situation?
ANNIKA SORENSTAM: What should be taken out of it?
Q. What was the lesson there? There are some people who would argue that Suzann did nothing wrong.
ANNIKA SORENSTAM: Yeah, I think we have talked about this enough. I think we've all learned a lesson. I mean, the players on both teams -- I don't think anybody's really happy what happened. I think we've moved on and focus on the positive. I think the U.S. Team played very, very well on Sunday. I mean they were exceptional. Unfortunately, that doesn't get talked about as much. I mean, they really won the last time.
I'd like to move forward. I'd like to take the positive out of what happened in Germany for a lot of other reasons and just focus on what we're going to do next.
Q. Next year's competition is at Des Moines in Iowa. What have you heard about the venue in this great golf market?
ANNIKA SORENSTAM: I've heard a lot of things. I've already seen a promotion. Seems like they're selling tickets like no other place. I know that's a big sport community. They're going to be very engaged in the event. I think it's going to be fantastic in many ways.
I look forward to seeing the golf course and obviously getting familiarized a little bit with it. I've only heard good things. I know they hosted was it the Senior PGA Championship and I guess they sold out. So I would expect the same thing for next year.
Q. In terms of the profile of the event, it's obviously grown massively, especially on social media. Last time 1.5 billion impressions. Do you think it can get even bigger and better?
ANNIKA SORENSTAM: Oh, absolutely. I think that's what we all strive for. If you look at the history of the Solheim Cup starting in 1990 at Lake Nona, Florida, and where we are today, I don't know if the Solheims had that same vision. I know they've always dreamed big, but I don't think anybody would have thought they would happen so quickly and so big. So, yeah, it's just getting better and better. Lot of young girls are following it, especially with the Junior Solheim Cup. I mean the growth is there, so it's just heading for bigger and better things.
Q. Annika, you've played for a lot of captains and worked alongside a lot of captains. Is there anyone in particular that you like their style or you might borrow something someone did that you thought worked out well?
ANNIKA SORENSTAM: You're right. I've seen a lot of different captaincy styles. I would say I have picked a little here and little there. But the most important thing is you've got to be you. You've got to be who you are. I think keeping communication open is really important. I don't think anybody likes secrets and surprises, at least I didn't.
So that's kind of my philosophy is I'm going to be open, I'm going to be available. I want to hear what players want to do. It's really all about them. My goal is to create an environment where they can play their best. It's all about creating memories and having fun. I think when you're having fun, you play well, and that's just going to lead to better things. So I can't really pick anybody, but I'm going to try to be me and be available.
Q. You mentioned that the Ping Junior Solheim Cup is also growing and you love giving back. What can you tell us about that competition and how much you enjoy giving back to juniors in particular?
ANNIKA SORENSTAM: I do. I mean, it might sound like a clichĂ©, but I wouldn't be here if it wasn't for golf. I've been able to live my dream and now I want to share it, and I want other young girls to be able to live their dream. Golf is really an amazing sport. It's a game that you can play all your life. So I feel like I have a responsibility to give back to the next generation. We want to share what the game of golf can bring.
So by creating tournaments, junior tournaments especially to get them started early, to get that spark or inspire them, I think it's kind of the gift that we can give them. You look at the game of golf and it's just so many similarities to life. So why not give them the opportunity? So I've got a lot of satisfaction out of being around these young kids, inspiring them and sharing my knowledge. It's rewarding.
People always say what do you do nowadays? How do you get to your competitive drive? And I said it's fun to give back. I really enjoy that. So I'm going to continue to do that and inspire the next generation.
Q. You talked about timing. How this is the perfect time for you to take the role. Why is that?
ANNIKA SORENSTAM: Well, my kids are now 6 and 5, and I feel like it's a little bit more of a stable age. It's easier for me to go away and do some other things. I feel like I've been vice-captain three times. I don't know if there is a limit to how many times you can be a vice-captain, but I think it's enough. I think I've got enough experience.
And I felt that '17 I'm still involved in the game. I'm still in touch with some of the players. You still want to be relevant. I think that this was just a good time for me. I have the commitment. I'm ready to do it, and if you're going to think of future Solheims, there are a lot of players on the European Tour that would love the opportunity. So I'm not going to push my luck to turn it down again. It's just a lot of pieces fell together and here I am.
Q. How will you juggle your time with all your business endeavors as well? How are you going to focus on this task?
ANNIKA SORENSTAM: I learned how to juggle. This is certainly a priority of mine, and I know that next year will be a lot busier than this year, but I also know I have a team. This is not just a one-man show. We're going to do this together. I might be the face for the moment, but it's about the players, it's about the team, it's about the staff. It's a joint effort in my opinion. But I'm certainly going to make every effort to do the very best I can.
Q. As captain what are the traits that you have that you hope to absorb or you can pass on to your team?
ANNIKA SORENSTAM: Maybe that's a question for the players. But from my perspective, I obviously have the experience. I'm just a little bit competitive. The focus I have and that I care. I hope they see that I care. I've been involved since I stepped away. So hopefully I can share that with them. I can inspire them to reach their full potential and play their very best. Hopefully I have some knowledge to share, if they want to know that.
But just experience and kind of I know a little bit about match play, how to put pairings together. So I'm just literally there to be a resource for them. But, again, just make them feel comfortable and know that I support them and I trust them and that we're going to do this together.
Q. Past captains have reached out to other past captains to get some advice. Is that something you might be doing?
ANNIKA SORENSTAM: Yeah, I think that's a good approach. I have a few ideas. But I still feel like I have some time. I want to learn a little bit more and work with the team and they're going to educate me a little bit what's going on the Tour. Obviously I live here and I haven't played competitive for a few years.
But, yeah, I think you learn from other people. That's how I have role models in the business world. You learn from people that have been successful. So my plan is to reach out to some of the captains and just hear their thoughts. There are other people out there that can probably offer some advice. So, yeah, I have a few things up my sleeve.
Q. Do you have any plans to reach out on the men's side maybe to go to the Ryder Cup and talk to the men's captains at all?
ANNIKA SORENSTAM: I do. I do have some plans. I hope they accept that, but I look forward to catching up with a few and just listening and learning. I think that's the best way. You've got to listen and see what works in our situation.
Q. Have any past captains come to you for advice?
ANNIKA SORENSTAM: Well, I mean, the last few years I've had a lot of contact with players, a lot of contact with other captains, but there's always been kind of a joint venture in my opinion. We've had discussions. We share our thoughts. It doesn't mean that one way is better than the other. We just have to find what works, and I like that. I like the collaboration. I like to learn from others, and hopefully we come out with a great product.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you for joining us today. And thank you to ANA and LPGA for hosting us. We're looking forward to seeing you all at Des Moines in Iowa for the Solheim Cup next year.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports