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‘When Foes Become Friends’ – Emily Kristine Pedersen on the “Special” Solheim Cup

“The Solheim Cup, it gives me chills just thinking about it,” defending champion Emily Kristine Pedersen of Team Europe tells the WSA. “It’s getting bigger and bigger and is a real showcase for the women’s game which growing all the time!”

Image @emilykristinepedersen

Emily Kristine Pedersen was 10 when she first struck a ball down a fairway and the Danish golfer dazzled as a junior before winning the prestigious British and European Ladies Amateur Championship titles in her teens.

In 2014, at the age of 18, she turned professional and claimed the LET ‘Rookie of the Year’ award the following year before continued progress saw her attain a maiden Solheim Cup call-up in 2017.

For those unaware, the Solheim Cup is a three-day team event which sees the strongest players in Europe take on the best from America across a series of disciplines – foursomes, the fourballs and the singles – with points awarded for each success.

Emily may have experienced defeat in her debut, but was part of a victorious side at the last edition in 2021.

She describes the Solheim Cup as “so special” and “unlike anything else” they play anywhere in the world.

“One week you’re competing on your own against them and then overnight you just melt together and become almost a family,” says the five-time Ladies European Tour winner.

“Then there’s the Americans who we play every week (on the Tour).

“Sometimes you’re really friendly with them and obviously there’s a lot of respect, but (during the Solheim Cup) you just get into that rivalry and you’ll do anything to beat them!”

Growing in golf, as a player and as a person

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Emily enters her third Solheim Cup as a significantly “more mature” player than the one who “nervously” approached her first after a “shock” wildcard inclusion.

While it was hoped the event – and the experience gained from it – would provide her with a platform from which to further develop, instead her confidence took a significant knock.

Over the following two years Emily’s ranking would plumet as she struggled to make the cut in a series of LPGA Tour events and eventually she found herself outside of the top-500.

The Dane realised action needed to be taken.

“I didn’t really know how to handle playing badly because it had never happened before and when I did, it made me feel like I wasn’t a good person,” Emily recalls.

“I started working hard with a psychologist to try and separate the different parts of my life.”

While improvements were not immediate, her persistence paid.

Image @emilykristinepedersen

In late 2020 she became the first player in over 30 years (since 1989), to win three Ladies European Tour titles in a row, following successes in Saudi Arabia and Spain.

The latter was a particularly emotional victory as her father, Jesper who was a former professional footballer and had introduced her to golf, was her caddie.

After that victory Emily began to open up in interviews and across social media about the challenges she had faced – in the hope it would make it easier for others to speak out or seek help themselves.

“It’s difficult because I still feel it now sometimes and go ‘damn, I'm the only one struggling, or feeling this way’ but the one rule people told me is you are not the only one going through it,” she says.

“Just because this is my struggle right now, doesn't mean that it's forever.

“I think it's very important to try and help younger generations understand that it's not just glory days and nice all the time, there's real battles and it takes perseverance to go through.

“But when you've hit that downslope, you've been on the bottom and work your way up again, it’s the biggest reward and feels ten-times better than winning the first time!”

Taking a ‘wholistic’ approach to being the ‘complete’ athlete

After tackling the mental side her sport Emily was keen to ensure she was also the best psychical athlete possible and the 27-year-old attributes much of her recent success to improvements in this area.

A quick scan of her social media feed reveals the Danish golfer regularly hits not only the fairway, but also the gym – and the occasional ice-bath.

“A lot of people call it the ‘Tiger effect’ because he (Tiger Woods) was such an athlete and the sport going into the Olympics has pushed that growth further,” she tells the WSA.

“I think it’s really important to be strong for your mind and body to avoid injuries.

“You spend a lot of time in an airplane, in different time-zones, on the golf course and I had a few back issues early in my career which was really a kind of a wake-up call.

“It’s important to be fit and strong for the sport, but also one day I might want to have kids, I want to be able to run around with them and be able to lift them up without having back pain because of golf, so being an athlete is something that I take very, very seriously.”

Image @emilykristinepedersen

‘The women’s game is just getting bigger and bigger!’

Recent research in the USA suggested that there had been a 15% increase in the number of women taking up golf since the pandemic, vs a 2% increase in men.

Pre-Covid studies around the globe found similar striking boosts to participation on the female side of the sport and at a professional level too.

It is a transformation Emily has witnessed first-hand.

“It’s great to see the growth and on the LPGA Tour we have more nationalities represented than ever before, together with growing financial backing through sponsors which is lifting the game all around the world,” Emily tells the WSA.

“When I was an amateur, I was told you needed to be in the top-40 (in the world) to earn a living as a professional on the LPGA Tour, but now I think you can be top-80 or top-100 which is great!

“We still have a long way to go, because we can’t always play as long as the men if we want children and that makes it a little more difficult, but there is progress.”

Seeking Solheim Cup success

Image @emilykristinepedersen

Emily admits there are always a “few nerves”, even now as she approaches her third Solheim Cup, but reveals the team have a number of methods to ensure the players bond as quickly as possible ahead of their match-up against the USA.

“It’s special every time because I remember thinking ‘will people talk to one another, or keep things to themselves like on tour?’ but it’s it nothing like that and we all just melt into one,” she reveals.

“Whether it’s caddies, helpers, players or the captain, people sit wherever and there aren’t any designated seats which really helps.

“We have ping pong tables, we have trivia nights, which are all really good for getting to know one another and we also watch lots of motivational videos.”

Emily continues; “Last time (in 2021) I was playing with Charley (Hull) and I was a bit nervous about putting her in a tight position, but she came over to me and said ‘I actually like it when you hit it into the trees – I can be more creative.’

“I feel like I get better and grow from being around these amazing players, so I love the challenge and can’t wait for what this year’s Solheim Cup brings!”

Image @emilykristinepedersen


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