Q&A with Solheim Cup captain Carin Koch
It must be encouraging to see so many women playing the inaugural Costa Smeralda Invitational as these events are often male dominated?
It’s lovely to see so many ladies out and they seem to be enjoying themselves. It would be nice to see events like this with all women sometimes because there are so many of these and there are barely any women and I know a lot of women are nervous about playing in corporate things. I hope to help and change that.
Are big charity/corporate events intimidating for ladies?
I think they are. I think the majority of ladies are not as competitive as men so they find they just want to do it for social reasons, for fun, so I think they get a little bit more nervous in corporate events than the necessarily have to.
Why is that?
I’m an ambassador for Syngenta who have done big research in the UK about women’s involvement in golf and why they play and they don’t play and if they stopped, why they stopped. Now they’re trying to implement the findings at clubs, trying to change and seeing how we can get more women playing.
In the UK only 14 percent of golfers are women so it is very low. In Sweden I think it is about 28 percent and the golf federation has a project called 50-50 which is one of the most important things they’re working on right now. I think it is not just members at the clubs but it is also trying to get more women into corporate events, more women out playing business golf. I mean men do that but woman don’t do it as much which is strange.
What do women want out of the game of golf?
They want [it to be] more social, not everybody I guess, but in the big picture. They do it more for the social aspect, they don’t care about getting better as golfers so much, they just want to do it to go out with their friends or their family. I think women also want to get out on the course more than practise hitting balls which you have to do in the start.
They also don’t want all the rules. In the UK there are a lot of rules, clothing rules for example…there is sometimes a committee that has been there forever and they don’t feel welcome. Feeling welcome and accessibility are big things. A lot of people want to play golf but they don’t really know where to start and then some people start and they don’t really feel welcome at the club and don’t find their little social groups. Men are more individuals I think so they maybe just keep going and find friends but women are a little more insecure in that I think, generally.
And some courses are just too hard, they’re too long, they’re too difficult, a lot of women don’t hit to too far, especially older women and we need to change the golf courses a little bit. Some courses there are no toilets and there are no signs on the ladies locker rooms…everything is kind of set up for the men.
How has the Solheim captaincy experience been so far?
It’s been great; a lot of fun…but it’s been busy! There’s been a lot of administration work that I’m not really used to. A few hours in front of the computer every now and then, and on the phone. But it’s an honour to be captain and I’m just looking forward to the next couple of months, keeping in touch with the players and seeing how they’re going.
How difficult will it be settling on your four captain’s picks? You’re going to have to make some nice phone calls and some not so nice phone calls aren’t you?
I really dread that day to be honest with you. I was with Liselotte Neumann when she did her picks after the British Open two years ago and it was on her then, she was captain and I was vice captain but it was still a tough day. There were a couple of girls who expected to be on the team and they didn’t get on the team and that’s no fun to tell them. On the other hand to go tell four people they are on the team is equally fun. But I’ll be very glad when that day is over, put it that way.”
There’s also a lot of pressure on you having to follow in the wake of Liselotte Neumann after Europe’s 18-10 win in Colorado two years ago and the 15-13 win by Alison Nicholas’ team in Ireland in 2011?
Yeah! We’re trying to go for three in a row, just like the Ryder Cup. The Americans are going to have a great team. They have a phenomenal captain in Juli Inkster. She’s a legend and one of my favourite players. She has daughters that are the same age as a lot of the players so I think she can relate to the players, maybe more so than some of the captains before her. So I think they are going to be very strong but they have been in the past as well and we’ve proven we can beat them.
Have you spent any time with European Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley?
I went to the Ryder Cup and got to see behind the scenes. I had a little meeting with him there and then I had dinner with him later in the spring. We sat down for a long time, I picked his brain and got a lot of advice from him.
What things did you take away from your meetings with Paul and the Ryder Cup?
It’s funny. I’d never been to a Ryder Cup before so I learned that a lot of the things are the same. They have a different budget but we still do a lot of similar things like the team rooms. And then some things are quite different as well. It was nice to be at Gleneagles and just get the atmosphere and realise it [the Solheim Cup] is only a year away, nice to see it and nice to see the home fans and to know that’s what we’re going to get as well.
There’s a lot of pressure on the American Ryder Cup team following their loss at Gleneagles last year. Do you think the US Solheim Cup girls are feeling the same sort of heat?
I lot of people actually ask me if I think we have extra pressure from winning the last two but I can’t see it that way. I see the Americans having the pressure; you don’t won’t to lose three in a row and last time they lost big. But that is also going to make them strong. They’re going to come out wanting it more than ever I think so it goes both ways.
What sort of captain will you be?
You know, I’m going to be relaxed, I think that’s important. I think it’s important the girls can do their thing but also do things for the team. I want them to remember it as one of the best experiences in their lives, however the matches pan out. Just have a fun time together, some team building and just have a good week together. And also like Paul [McGinley], I want to feel that I’m really prepared when I get there.
Where are you at in the preparation phase? Have you paired girls up in LET tournaments like Paul McGinley did in the run up to the Ryder Cup?
We haven’t done that in the past so I’d like to keep doing what we’ve been doing. The girls that play out on the LPGA see each other and are good friends and spend time together anyway so I don’t really feel that is one of the things I need to do. I’ll start sitting down with some players and get a feel for who they like playing with and then I’ll look at the stats and see who has played together before and who has played well together. We had a nice dinner together in Palm Springs in March and will practise together at the course on the Monday after the British Open.
You know what it is like to play in the Solheim Cup. From your experiences, what can any new players expect in Germany?
It’s awesome. It’s just so nice to be on a team but it’s also one of the most nerve-wracking tournaments you’ll ever play. I had the fortune of making the winning putt in 2000 and I just remember not quite knowing how to take the club back. You really feel like you’re on a big stage and it is our chance to showcase women’s golf in the best setting with a fun format with the greatest players in the game so, you feel that. It’s just so much fun to have the backing of the team.
We know you can’t select Lydia Ko because she is a New Zealander but talk about her impact on the game recently. How important is it to have young girls like her performing so well?
I think Lydia and people like Charley Hull, the young girls, they’re good role models for the sport. It’s really changed and in the men’s game as well with Jordan Spieth and Rory. The role modelling in golf has changed so much since when I started. You used to hear that you had to be over 30 to be a good golfer because you had to have all this experience and now these young kids come out and there’s just no fear and they’re just so good. Lydia has definitely done a lot to show you can be that good at 17…it’s amazing to be No.1 at 17. But Charley as well…she was 17 at the Solheim Cup and she was a great player and also a lot of fun to have around as well, a fun girl. She works hard on her game but also has fun and I like that.
How about your own game now you are captain. Are you playing much?
I don’t prioritise my own golf any more because I’ve been busy with other things with the Solheim and everything else. I did start working with a new teacher and enjoyed that. I find I can play really good when I’m practising and just out playing but it seems as soon as I get some pressure in a tournament situation, I’m just not sharp anymore.
I guess it’s confidence. It’s frustrating because I know I still have the game when I play outside of a tournament but I think I am ready to do other things in life as well and just the grind of always knowing I should go and practise…I don’t mind it once I’m there but I need to do this and that when I should really be practising.
So what is on the bucket-list when you do eventually retire?
I know I won’t go too far from golf. I’d like to do more public speaking, I’d love to try and work with TV more, I’d love to be more involved with women’s golf projects and to try and really increase the number of women playing golf, all around the world, and young kids, girls as well.
We all know golf needs to target younger players but how do you get them playing?
By getting more women to play you’ll get more girls because it then becomes the whole family playing. I know for me, my dad got me out on the course and then me and him would go play. Mum hated golf but she’d be lonely at home so she started playing and loved it. The family aspect of it is really big and I think also, you just have to do things at the club to keep the girls playing. Girls are very dependent on having other girls there so that they have groups or they have to learn to play with the guys and be comfortable with that.
The Costa Smeralda Invitational
Carin was playing in the Costa Smeralda Invitational in Sardinia, one of Europe’s leading new golf tournament for celebrities from the worlds of sport and entertainment to raise money for Autism Rocks and UNICEF.
Held at the majestic Robert Trent Jones Snr-designed Pevero Golf Club the tournament, which also starred Justin Rose, raised €135,000.
Indian cricket legend Kapil Dev won the inaugural Blue Jacket with 37 Stableford points.