During the Open de Espana - Madrid 2020 – three former Spanish Solheim Cup members - Raquel Carriedo, Ana Belén Sanchez and Tania Elosegui - discussed their Solheim Cup memories and this year’s potential Spanish players Carlota Ciganda, Azahara Muñoz and Beatriz Recari, who are all currently poised to qualify for the European team.
Carriedo, a two-time Solheim Cup player, is now retired from the Tour and spends most of her time taking care of her kids. The first time she played the Solheim Cup was in Europe in 2000 and the next, two years after, in 2002 in the US. She gives us both sides of the story:
“The first one was in Scotland and it was a nice experience but also very tough. I had bad times because I was there without having won a tournament and I felt worse than the rest of the team because of this. In fact, I did not play my best there and the weather conditions did not help much either. But I learnt a lot.”
“My second Solheim Cup was in the US and I felt much more comfortable. It had won three events by that time and I played there much better, although Europe lost. What I remember the most is the public, the crowds. The Americans cheer more than Europeans and I also remember that the US Team really sticks together, so you play versus them and also the crowds there.”
Regarding Ciganda as a future Solheim Cup player, she added: “I played with Carlota last year and I think she has everything, absolutely everything… Power, a very good short game and overall an impressive capacity to stay focused and mature. I think she is very mature considering her age. I see her doing very well if she makes the team. She is going to do great. To play the Solheim is going to be a great experience to her that will help her to grow in her future career.”
“Regarding possible combinations, I think a Spanish duo could be a good one; maybe Azahara and Carlota, as I think they get on very well.
“My advice to them would be to try to stay calm, which it is something complicated… but most important of all is that they have to be aware that the experience there will be something that they will never forget and that will help them a lot in developing their professional career. It is an experience that is going to bring them a lot of maturity to their games. It is a unique experience, where you learn a lot … you will leave stronger in all senses.”
Raquel y Ana Belén, together during Open de España femenino- Madrid 2020
Ana Belén Sanchez played the Solheim Cup 2003 in Barseback, Sweden. She is also retired from the tour and plays golf regularly.
“It was an unforgettable experience… an experience where you are so nervous the whole week…but these nerves help you to play well. The weeks before I could not believe I was going to play The Solheim Cup because I thought, ‘What was I doing there with all these good players?’ I was there with Laura Davies, Annika Sorenstam, Carin Koch - and I had not done anything compared to them. In fact, I had not won any tournaments at that time. Until I got there, I could barely believe it that I was really in the team representing Europe… But then, I started to also think that if I was there it was because of something… I was not picked, so there must be a reason why I was there with all these great players.”
“My memories there are mainly of the camaraderie there was between our team in general and all of us, the good feeling… For example, I was there sitting I front of the computer and Annika was coming to sit beside me saying, “Hi Ana Belen! How do you feel?” This was never in my plans! All these things helped me a lot in future, so when I was in a tournament the following year, I could only think that it can’t be any more pressure than when I was there playing in The Solheim Cup: it’s impossible. So now I can face all situations. And that is when I started to play better and win tournaments. I started to feel much better and this is when I won the tournament in Italy. I was a lot more confident in myself. Actually, the night when we were celebrating the victory in The Solheim Cup, Dale Reid was there and told me that generally, the players that have not won a tournament that have the chance to play in The Solheim Cup then they start to win. And when I won in Italy, Dale was there and reminded me of that.
“Carlota, Beatriz and Azahara have played many times in team competitions as amateurs. Each of them shine in different way, but they are all very good, this is why they are performing so well. Beatriz is an expert in the short game, with impressive putting. Azahara is complete with a good long and short game and Carlota is the powerful one, with great long game, driver and impressive shots into the greens. She is probably the one with the worst putting. But the three are a complete trio: precision with the short game (Beatriz), power (Carlota) and a mixture of both (Azahara).”
“My advice to the rookies would be to enjoy it and not to think that they have to prove anything to anyone. They have to believe that they are there, representing Europe, because they deserve it, because they are some of the best players in the world and people trust them because they know they are going to give 200% to help the team to win. But overall, my advice is that they have to enjoy every single moment, because time passes so fast that week that you don’t realise.”
Tania Elosegui is now playing regularly on the Ladies European Tour and is currently 62nd on the ISPS Handa Order of Merit. She played one edition of The Solheim Cup in 2009, on US soil and knows Carlota, Azahara and Beatriz the most well.
“Playing The Solheim Cup was my best experience ever from professional point of view. The best experience overall and my best memory was when I was standing on the first tee, on the first day of the tournament, with everyone there, shouting and cheering, but unfortunately supporting the US Team! I was very honoured and lucky because I had the opportunity to talk to José Maria (Olazabal) right before departing and the best advice that he gave me and the best one that I think I could give to my colleagues from Spain that are probably going to Colorado next August: this advice, was to enjoy every single moment, on and off the course. So when you are on the first tee, instead of getting scared, with all the people cheering ‘USA, USA!’ They just have to try and enjoy it…and to say to themselves, ‘How lucky I am to be here and to hit this first shot in a Solheim Cup’, wherever the ball goes… and this is the best and useful advice that I had!”
When asked how best these three players could contribute to the team, Tania said: “I have to say that the three of them are the best that I have seen when playing match play. Azahara has a special mind, also when playing match play. Beatriz Recari is more or less the same as Azahara and also a very good putter and this is very important. Carlota is also great: she gets on fire from the first hole and gives everything from the beginning. The three of them are great players for a tournament like The Solheim Cup. Regarding the possible combinations when playing the foursomes and four-balls, I think that Carlota and Azahara get on very well together and could be a very good combination. I also like the combination of Beatriz and Azahara, because I think their type of games combine very well. I do not see Carlota-Beatriz, because there is slight power difference between them.”