The real winner is women’s golf

It’s hard for me to reminisce about the Solheim Cup without a grin on my face. I owe some of my best memories to this incredible event, and people that I’ve met because of it.

As a golfer from the age of 8 and in just my second year as Tournament Secretary with the LET, it was a no-brainer when I was asked to join the Team Europe backroom staff for the 2011 Solheim Cup, at Killeen Castle. To peek behind the curtain of an event I have grown up watching was so exciting, and since then I’ve had the honour to work alongside some of the greatest European players of all time.

My role has progressed over time, and as European Solheim Cup Director since 2018, the honour has also extended to working with a vast array of industry leaders to deliver the most successful European event to date at Gleneagles in 2019. Plus, to be able to witness first-hand Catriona Matthew’s record win at the Inverness Club in 2021 was remarkable.

Being asked to document my own personal and professional experiences of the Solheim Cup, it would be remiss of me to not recognise those who paved the way. Karsten and Louise Solheim were visionaries and staunch supporters of women’s golf as the founders of PING. With the increasing popularity of the Ryder Cup, the question was raised as to why there wasn’t a female version, and at the urging of Louise, Karsten pledged to support and sponsor the first 10 events – this was a massive commitment and gave an opportunity to showcase women’s golf on a whole different international level. We will always be eternally grateful for the unwavering support of the Solheim family and their continued dedication to elevating the women’s game. 

Not content with simply creating the biggest event in women’s elite golf, they are also dedicated to growing the amateur talent that feeds the spectacle. One aspect of this is the PING Junior Solheim Cup, where under 18s are given the same opportunity as their idols and gain the chance to meet, learn and be inspired by those that have come before them and are now competing at the highest level.

Since its inception, the Solheim Cup has grown from strength to strength, and though I am a tad biased to the recent form of the European Team, the real winner is women’s golf.

I started playing golf because of my Nan – who at the age of 88 can still give me a run for my money! There’s no denying my family is a golfing one, and I have many childhood memories from Saturdays at the golf club. Though my brother and I loved some healthy sibling rivalry, and the women’s section were amazing, there weren’t any other young girls at my club. Strong female role models in sport are essential to illuminate the pathways that are available, not just in the professional game but throughout the industry in general.

One such example is Suzann Pettersen.  I have known her for many years but looking ahead to the 2023 Solheim Cup at Finca Cortesin, I am extremely excited to work alongside her and see how she will make the role of Captain her own.

Spain has been at the core of the LET, and their undeniable devotion to women’s golf is evident in the incredible legacy of past Solheim Cup players. It has a special place in my heart – the Costa del Sol is a beautiful destination, and a perfect location to stage an event rich in culture. Not only will visitors be treated to an extraordinary display of golf, but they will also experience the Spanish hospitality, stunning vistas and, fingers crossed, non-stop sunshine!

Polly Clark

European Solheim Cup Director