Helen Alfredsson discusses the Major venue with a difference
Helen Alfredsson is the only three-time winner of the Evian Championship, having won it in its first year 20 years ago, again in 1998 and then 10 years later.
Here the Swede looks back at how the tournament (and course) has grown into a Major venue with a difference.
The early days
We first came in 1994 and everybody just loved it, we had fun with it and they made it a huge party for the players. I think it’s the only tournament I’ve played where every year there has been some kind of improvement. They always wanted to do a little bit more and have just made amazingly natural steps into becoming a Major.
The thing that has never changed, obviously, is the view. Everywhere you go there are the mountains and the lakes which are extraordinary. It was a very short course in 1994, I don’t think they really knew how to set it up. But the greens were always tough because you thought it was going to break to the lake, and then some holes went up to the mountains.
Every year it was fun to come and see what changes they had made.
Well, for the first one, I had a friend with me and we had such a great time and everybody just enjoyed it.
The course was nothing like it is now but the soul of the place was special. It sounds corny but they made the tournament from the heart.
Then in ‘98 we had a tournament in Rochester and there was a delay so I only arrived on the Tuesday night and the tournament started on Wednesday.
And 2008 was quite special because I was captain of the Solheim Cup team the year before and I’d missed the first few cuts of the year – I was like, “Oh my God!” Then I was second at the US Open and I won Evian in a play-off against two girls whose combined ages added up to mine, so that made me feel very old!
The Saturday party
The tournament used to start on a Wednesday so they had a big party on the Saturday and then a pro-am on the Sunday.
I remember one year my caddie, Craig Connelly, who is now with Martin Kaymer, and my husband got so hungover that I had to drag my bag up the hill as they were still asleep.
I also remember Laura’s then caddie getting in at 6.45am and setting his alarm for 5.30. It’s something you could never get today. I think every now and then you have to have a little bit of fun, I mean the tournament was over so it wasn’t that bad. It really bonded everybody.
I never played in the charity football match as I have two left feet and I would have killed myself.
One funny memory was of Laura Davies not being able to drop it anywhere because they had grown all these flowers.
It has always been a great finishing hole, eagles were not far-fetched, and a lot of great things can happen. It used to be a tougher drive. If it was wet, the rough could be quite thick. It’s tough for women to fly it that far so you are really focusing on finding the fairway.
The idea at one time was to have three new Majors which I said was ridiculous. The LPGA had a list of things that needed to be fulfilled; the course, the difficulty of the greens, the layout, the distance. They said that it was too short really, so they lengthened it.
Something about the place is very special.