Suzann pettersen took the perfect final bow on a glittering career three years ago when she drained the winning putt to claim the 2019 Solheim Cup for Team Europe at Gleneagles in Scotland.
The Norwegian announced her retirement on the green as she and her teammates celebrated, hanging up her competitive clubs for good to concentrate on her growing family (she and husband Christian Ringvold now have two young children). Or so we thought…
Despite exiting the playing side of the game, Pettersen kept an active presence in the Solheim Cup, helping Catriona Matthew’s side defend their title in 2021 at Inverness Club in Ohio as a vice-captain.
And while family life is still a top priority, it was announced in November that the two-time major winner would take over from Matthew as European Captain for the 2023 Solheim Cup at Finca Cortesin in Spain.
As a result, Pettersen dusted off the clubs and made a competitive return to action at the recent Ladies European Tour (LET) Aramco Team Series — Jeddah.
However, despite claiming more than 20 professional titles in a career going all the way back to 2000, she insists this is definitely not a comeback.
“As part of my captaincy role, I decided to play in a few events to get to know the players better,” she told Golf Digest Middle East and, despite a disappointing return on a personal level (she shot seven-over and missed the cut at Royal Greens Golf & Country Club), it was a very worthwhile exercise.
“First of all, it was just great to be back in that atmosphere after a long time. You know, walking into the players’ locker room and the players’ lounge on the same terms as everyone else.
“I wanted to be here on a level playing field and get to know some of the players who could be on Team Europe in Spain come September. That was the main reason for being here.
“There are some players that I know well and some that I don’t know so well, so I wanted to see them all in action and give them all the same chance of making the team.
“I got to spend two days with two of those players that I didn’t really know that well [Daniela Holmqvist and Paz Marfa Sans] at the beginning to get my list of potential candidates together in my mind.
“It is also fun to see how you envisage certain players playing together and start to get a picture of potential pairings who complement each others’ games.
“It’s been very much worth the trip I like what the Aramco Team Series has done for women’s golf and I really want to support that.”
Thanks to Aramco and Golf Saudi, team golf has taken off once again and Pettersen is confident that can only help her players — whomever makes the final line-up for Spain.
“I have heard a few people’s experiences at these team events, and I was curious to see how it was for myself,” she said. “I must say it was really fun. I didn’t know what to expect and I obviously didn’t expect to play my best, but it has really, really good potential. It is nice to have these events in between a packed individual schedule as it makes things a bit more fun and also allows the players to pull together as a team, something vital come the Solheim Cup. It’s a good vibe.”
Back to that burning question for Pettersen herself: Has playing competitively again reignited that fire in the belly to get out there again?
“Well, to start on a personal note, I have never hit a driver worse than I did out there,” she admitted with a laugh. “Before the retirement I would have had a better score, but I have not played that much.
“I must concede it felt good to get that buzz of adrenaline on the first tee again, be back out there. It is fun to be back but I am not sure I miss it that much and I have moved on to a new part of my life. Obviously I am still around the world of golf and that can do for me just now. It is the younger girls’ turn now.”
Another recent golfing retiree Michelle Wie West recently admitted she had trouble adjusting to life and an “identity crisis” away from the competitive game, but Pettersen is taking her new path in her stride.
“I can see where she is coming from,” she said. “I can’t say I have been there myself, but my adjustment was maybe more gradual as when I stepped back I already had one child, and quickly we had another one, so I really didn’t have much time to dwell and look back. I do know the feeling Michelle is referring to when you go from everything to nothing in the game, from everywhere to people not expecting you to be anywhere anymore. It takes a bit of getting used to from being a professional athlete to being a family. They are two completely different scenarios.”
One future career avenue could be in the commentary booth, doing a fine job as she picked up the mic to help out with the analysis in Jeddah.
“I am definitely going to be doing a few of those moving forward when I am attending LET events.”