It ended in a draw, but it sure felt like a win for Team Europe as the 14-14 scoreline in the Solheim Cup meant the Waterford crystal trophy would stay on European soil until at least this time next year.
The star performer of the week at Finca Cortesin in Spain was stand-out home hero Carlota Ciganda, who won all four of her matches and took down world No. 3 Nelly Korda 2&1 with some stunning play on the Sunday along the way.
Ciganda marked her sixth appearance in the biennial contest between the best women golfers in Europe and the US in front of a (very) patriotic Spanish throng peppered with friends and family
“It was an amazing experience playing in Spain with all my family there and in front of a home crowd,” Ciganda said in a chat with Golf Digest Middle East on Thursday, having had a few days to let her achievement sink in. “It was such a fun week. The Solheim Cup is one of my favourite events, and to play for Suzann [Pettersen, the Team Europe captain], playing in Spain, it was really special and I am so happy how it ended up and it is a moment I won’t ever forget.”
While Sunday will long stay in the memory of both Carlota and her many fans, she pointed back to a moment on the Friday as a key to how events unfolded as she shared lunch with Ryder Cup legend — both as a captain and as a player with ‘Spanish Armada’ cohort Seve Ballesteros — Jose Maria Olazabal.
“Jose was with us,” Ciganda said. “He came to the opening ceremony with us and we had dinner with him, where he made a speech. I wasn’t playing on Friday morning so I stayed with Jose. He told us stories about Seve playing in the Ryder Cup and that was very inspiring. His message to all the girls was: ‘Never give up. If you still have a chance, just try your best. That’s what Seve used to say and do. Don’t give up and play until the end.’ That was really nice. He also sent he a message after we retained the Cup and it was very special to me to receive that.”
Next up for Ciganda is a trip to Hong Kong to play in the penultimate Aramco Team Series event ahead of the finale in Riyadh at the end of the month, and she hopes to put her now vast experience in team events to good use.
“I have never been to Hong Kong, but I have seen the course and it looks amazing,” she said. “The Aramco always plays quality courses and hopefully I can go and get another win there.
“Playing for a team means you are playing for something bigger than yourself. I think when you play for Europe in the Solheim Cup, or for Spain, or in the Aramco Team Series where you have teammates, you are just trying to help them and bring the best out of them. For me it is a fun week.”
The 14-14 draw in Spain has sparked a bit of debate and division among fans and players, many of whom have suggested some sort of a playoff to decide the winner should the scores be level after three days of play in both the Solheim and Ryder Cups. Ever the diplomat, Ciganda kept a foot in both camps.
“It was always been the way that they have been doing it throughout history [a tie means the previous event’s winner retains the trophy],” she said. “I think if you have 14-14 many years in a row it would be nice to see a winner but it doesn’t happen often so I think it is fine. I think the spectators want to see a winner — especially after three days of competing — so I understand and respect both sides… I don’t know. I think whatever is good for the golf, I am happy with that.”
So, with the men up next at Marco Simone in Italy, who does Carlota think will win that one?
“Ooooof. I’m gonna go with 15-13 for Europe,” she said after a moment of pondering. “I think the Americans are favourites with the players they have, but I think the course and the set-up and we are playing well, so I think we have a good chance. But I think it is going to be a competitive and close Ryder Cup.”
We need to wait for one more Sunday to see how that unfolds, too.
Main image: Carlota Ciganda. Angel Martinez