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Meet Germany’s latest winner Ann-Kathrin Lindner
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Ann-Kathrin Lindner celebrating her win at the Pilsen Golf Masters

From footballer to champion golfer, Pilsen Golf Masters winner Ann-Kathrin Lindner took up golf at 15 and won an international LET tournament ten years later: ‘it was a dream!’ she says.

When Ladies European Tour rookie Ann-Kathrin Lindner won the Pilsen Golf Masters in only her seventh LET event as a professional this August, she surprised even herself. However, in many ways, it was not at all surprising, particularly given her incredible work rate, support team and disciplined approach to golf.

An unusual route to becoming a professional tour golfer, ‘Anka’ took up the game by chance at 15, found her own coaches and effectively pushed her way into the German national team.

She always wanted to be a professional sportswoman, but her dream was to be a footballer rather than a golfer and she idolised Birgit Prinz, the all-time leading goal scorer in FIFA Women’s World Cups.

Ann-Kathrin at GC St. Leon-Rot with Franz Beckenbauer (German football coach, manager, and former player, nicknamed Der Kaiser because of his elegant style, his leadership, his first name "Franz", and his dominance on the football pitch)

As a footballer for SV Ramlingen from the ages of 8-13 and then Heesseler SV from 14-18, Anka hoped to be selected for the German squad. However, living in the small village of Burgdorf, 25 kilometres from Hannover, prevented her chances of being spotted by the big clubs.

Anka loves all sports, especially football

“My team Heesselar were not too motivated,” she says. “We had no team spirit. When you know that you are good but you’re team is not motivated enough, it’s bad. The next football team wanted me to join but my parents could not drive me because it was too far away.”

She considered golf a boring sport as a child, but was finally persuaded to have a few lessons and play a round by a family friend aged 15. She was hooked, and down from a 28 handicap to four within three years.

Shortly after this, she began to work with golf coach Christoph Hermann. “He told me after half a year that I could turn pro, but he meant a teaching pro and I had played three or four years, so I wanted to play. He said, ‘Okay, but you have to be better’ and I improved,” she said.

Her extensive athletic abilities and hard work paid off and in October 2009, her coach persuaded the German national team to accept her entry to the Ladies French International Championship, where she surprised everyone by finishing second and two places better than fellow German player Caroline Masson.

“In 2009 Christoph phoned to ask the national team if I could travel with them to the French International Championship in October. They were like, ‘Anka? Never heard of her!’ But then I finished second at this tournament.

“I got an invite for the national team practice sessions and was one month later in Buenos Aires with the national team for the world championship practice week. The world championship was one year later and the coach invited me to come with the team so that I could learn everything. Then in February 2010, he said ‘Okay, you get into the national team.’ My first season with the national team was okay, but he said, ‘Don’t worry about the first year, you have the second year.’ That was good and then the third year was really good. I have no wins but I played very solid.”

Practicing with a team near St. Leon-Rot

From late 2010, Anka spent two and a half years working as a secretary in the office at St. Leon-Rot Golf Club, the host venue for The 2015 Solheim Cup.

She was also able to take advantage of the world class practice facilities, including driving ranges, a state-of-the-art indoor putting centre over two floors and gym, whilst honing her game with support from the German national team and St. Leon-Rot.

Anka in training

Anka still practices at the venue and her colleagues and support team were understandably thrilled when she won in the Czech Republic: “All the guys said, ‘Hey, you deserve it so much.’ I’m so proud of it. They are celebrating me the whole year. It’s fantastic.

“All the important guys from St. Leon were at The Solheim Cup in Colorado and they phoned me and said everyone is talking about you here in Colorado. They phoned me and it was very nice, very happy. It was perfect timing for them because I am from St. Leon and it was a week before The Solheim Cup in Colorado and two years before The Solheim Cup in St. Leon so perfect for them.”

The team were in Colorado supporting Caroline Masson, a member of the victorious European Solheim Cup Team, with whom Anka regularly practises at St. Leon-Rot and who is two years her junior.

Two months ago, Anka would not have dreamed that she could be in the same league and possibly represent Europe at The 2015 Solheim Cup when the event is played at her home club, but the experience of winning has changed her mentality.

“Next time I will play The Solheim Cup, not watching on TV,” she said. “Before I never thought about it… I never thought about a win! I was just playing and so happy that I could play on the Ladies European Tour after nine or ten years of golf: it was a dream.  When I saw the decision about Charley Hull: she played after five second places and seven months of professional golf: she is playing The Solheim Cup, so I have two more years.

“When I was younger I always dreamed of being a professional sportswoman… and it’s golf!” she said.

The Olympics in Rio de Janeiro in 2016 is another goal. “Now, after Caroline Masson and Sandra Gal, I’m number three of the German professionals and maybe it’s easier to go to the Olympics for Germany than to play The Solheim Cup. I am ready to play!” she said.

With her work rate, enthusiasm for the game and disciplined approach, Anka could well be on the European team at The Solheim Cup in two years time  - and a trip to Brazil for the 2016 Summer Olympic Games is the logical next step.

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