Liselotte Neumann is in an unusual position – she is a European captain preparing a Solheim Cup defence. It doesn’t happen very often, so we find out exactly how it’s going…
WITH less than four months until Europe’s first Solheim Cup defence for eight years the countdown is well and truly on.
As things stand, four of the Europeans in the automatic qualifying spots would be rookies and, from the winning 2011 side, the likes of Mel Reid, Laura Davies, Caroline Hedwall and Sophie Gustafson would all need one of Lotta Neumann’s four picks.
Behind the scenes, things are far more advanced and the Swede has already chosen the outfits, picked the brains of 2011 skipper Alison Nicholas and chosen the menus and playlist for the team bus.
We speak as Neumann is on her way to Phoenix to play in a Legends Tour event and, as ever, she is charm personified.
She sadly lost her father over the new year but she remains giggly, fun and down to earth.
Whatever happens in Denver in the middle of August, you suspect that Neumann will handle it beautifully.
How are preparations going?
Everything is going good, I get a lot of help from the LET and I’m just putting together my schedule to get out to and chat with some of the girls at a few events. I’ll go to the Kraft and maybe a day at the Kia Classic in San Diego and then I’ll be looking to go to the event in Germany in May and then the US Open. And then of course the British Open.
How have you been since your father’s death?
I was in Sweden a lot in the new year. It is tough and isn’t a fun thing to deal with but he had a good life and lived to 83. I miss the phone calls and getting some good advice.
Have you had much chance to sit down with some of the prospective team?
At Hoylake we invited potential players to a pavilion by the 18th hole where the girls could drop in and say hi.
It was great for me as there were quite a few who I had never met before like Carolta
Ciganda, Caroline Masson and Carly Booth.
I could ask them about their games and their schedules so it was a nice insight and very relaxed. A few will be at the Kraft so there will hopefully be time to have a coffee and I can answer any questions that might be on their mind.
I also spoke with Alison Nicholas – we sat down for quite some time and she gave me some great things and was very organised.
She said to call or email any time which I will do and I will see Helen Alfredsson at one of the Legends events so will pick her brain a bit as well.
On the course, did you learn much at Hoylake?
Not really no, that was so hard for the girls, the conditions were brutal.
What about get-togethers ahead of the match?
We are trying to set up a practice session in the summer and find a date that everyone can make in Colorado. It will help to get familiar with the course and the surroundings so when we get around to the Solheim they know where the locker room and driving range is and they are as comfortable as possible. We will invite quite a few players.
What is Colorado like?
I like the course and think the girls will really like it. We have people out there to follow every match and help with fruit and drinks or any other requests. It is kind of a fun course to play, with pretty big and undulating greens which will take a bit of getting used to. A big thing is the altitude as the ball will go close to 10 per cent further. It is also quite hilly.
It is a good matchplay course, the 16th has a big tree in the middle and you can go either side of it and make the hole quite a lot shorter if you go down the tighter right side. So there will be some interesting strategy.
What happened when Sandra Gal and Anna Nordqvist took on Angela Stanford and Stacy Lewis?
They played three holes and our girls won – which will give them some confidence! They really enjoyed the course and played some other holes and got buggies to have a look at the other holes.
I will ask everyone who they want to play with What other aspects have gone into the planning behind the scenes already?
We are working on a playlist for the bus ride which will be 25- 30 minutes to get them ready for the day and will do a mix of music for the team room.
We have also been looking at the menus for the hotel and team room and things like nutrition bars, decorations, and players and caddies’ gifts. We’ll try to get all that done as quickly as possible.
Everything takes longer than you think and I don’t want to be thinking about these type of things in the run up to the matches themselves.
So, then we can focus on the picks and the pairings long with my assistants Carin (Koch) and Annika (Sorenstam).
Was it an easy decision to have Carin and Annika as your vice-captains?
Yes, I am pretty close with both of them and have known them for such a long time.
Between us we have some great experience and the three of us will talk a lot.
Annika will hopefully be able to come out to some events, and lives in the States, while Carin still plays on the LET.
I will stick to two, I’m not sure you can have more than two, but you can also pick helpers and have people out there to follow every match and help with fruit and drinks or any other requests.
What colours can we expect to see Europe in?
We have picked all the outfits thanks to Abacus, they’ve done it before and did a great job so they pretty much came up with the outfits and know what is fashionable. We know pretty much know the Americans will be in red, white and blue so we know what not to clash with!
How much thought have you given to the pairings?
Because of the altitude it will be tiring to walk 36 holes, mentally more than physically. The players are all in good shape but it will be important to keep people rested and have some energy for the singles and the 12 points that are left to play for.
It is hard to think of any pairings now, so much is down to who makes the team, who is playing well and who wants to play with who. I will ask everyone who they want to play with, it is a long time to be with someone and so stressful that you want to be comfortable with your partner and enjoy each other ’s company and pump each other up. Some of the girls don’t know some of the Europeans quite as well but hopefully the get-together will help with that.
Have you spoken much with opposite number Meg?
Meg is a good friend. She called when my father passed but we haven’t caught up since the fall. No doubt we will catch up at the Kraft.
Carlota Ciganda currently leads qualification, what do you know of her?
I saw her for just a couple of holes at the British and she was playing with Carly Booth and Laura Davies which was fun. She is a super nice girl and we had emailed a bit and I am looking forward to watching her at the Kraft.
She seems very down to earth and is very serious about her game and very popular.
It was funny as a couple of people told me I better pick her for the team but the way she is playing she might not need my help.
You are now a year into your captaincy, are you enjoying the role?
I am enjoying it, I am really looking forward to getting out there. So far it has been a lot of emails but this year the fun really starts.
Check out our countdown to the Solheim Cup HERE