ANDALUCIA, Spain — This week at Finca Cortesin marks the first time that the Solheim Cup will be played in Spain, and few are more excited for this round of the biennial team competition than Carlota Ciganda. Ciganda hails from Pamplona which is well-known globally for the annual running of the bulls and is a good nine-and-a-half-hour drive from this week’s venue.
Because she never had the opportunity to watch the world’s best duke it out in the Solheim when she was a kid, something that would have been “amazing” for the now match-play stalwart, Ciganda hopes that this week will inspire the next generation of Spanish golfers, just like the Ryder Cup at Valderrama Golf Club did in 1997.
“With Valderrama, golf grew a lot in Spain,” Ciganda said. “So hopefully a lot of girls can watch the Solheim Cup, especially here in Spain, and we can grow the game and we can have some Spanish stars in the near future.“
After qualifying via her position in the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings, Ciganda is making her sixth Solheim Cup appearance at Finca Cortesin, boasting a career record of 7-8-4 and earning nine total points for the European team throughout the years. As is the Spanish way, she brings plenty of fire to team competitions and this week in Andalucia will be no different, although Ciganda might be more jacked up than normal since she’s playing in front of an adoring home crowd.
And you best believe the Spaniard will do whatever it takes to keep the Cup in Europe.
“It's a dream come true. It's a pleasure to be here in my home country. I just love Spain. Spain is home,” said Ciganda. “It's just so nice to have Spanish dinners, to listen to everyone talking in Spanish. I'm so happy to be here and hopefully, it's a great week for us. I love match play, playing for the team, for your teammates, for the captain. I think that's more fun than playing for yourself. The European team is always one united team and I love that. We have a great team (this year) because we have some players with experience and then some younger ones. I think it's always important to have a few rookies that bring the energy and the excitement.”
Ciganda made her Solheim Cup debut in 2013, quickly asserting her match-play dominance by going undefeated with a 3-0-0 record, only playing in the fourball and singles sessions. The 33-year-old has continually struggled with the foursomes format, going 1-2-1 in the three years she has played in the alternate shot session, but she usually excels in both the fourball and singles matches. She has a 3-5-2 record in fourball, earning four career points for the Euros in that format, and has gone 3-1-1 in singles, putting 3.5 points on the board individually.
While she’s more than fired up about playing in Spain and while she wants to contribute as many points as she can to the Euros over the weekend, Ciganda won’t have to do all the heavy lifting herself this week. Her 11 teammates boast plenty of past Solheim Cup experience with players like Caroline Hedwall, Charley Hull and Anna Nordqvist having been a part of at least four or more European teams in the past.
The Euros also feature some of the hottest players on the LPGA Tour this season, people like Celine Boutier who has captured three 2023 LPGA Tour titles so far this year, two of which came back-to-back at The Amundi Evian Championship and FREED Group Women’s Scottish Open, and Linn Grant who became a Rolex First-Time Winner earlier this season at the Dana Open and has three additional top 10s this year.
Add that good form and past experience together with the fact that the Europeans have beaten the Americans in the last two Solheim Cups, and you have a recipe that points to the Euros as the definite favorites this week. Captain Suzann Pettersen has said many times already that she feels like this might be the strongest European team of all time and that’s an opinion that Ciganda definitely agrees with, especially when you look at statistics and recent results.
“I do think on paper, on the rankings, we have the strongest team ever,” said Ciganda. “The top players, we have I think (nine) main players in the top 50 in the world, so that's amazing. Charley (Hull) five times (has finished) second. In two majors she finished second. Celine (Boutier), she won Evian and Scotland. I think the youngsters are really good and we have a great team. I mean, I've played six Solheim Cups and I think this is the strongest one we have.”
But when it comes to playing in front of a hometown crowd, whether it’s in a Solheim Cup or on the LPGA Tour, pressure and nerves will always be a factor, even for the most talented, veteran teams. Some players struggle with that, succumbing to the expectations of the hundreds of fans there to cheer them on and feeling the weight of their country on their shoulders.
That’s not Ciganda though. She’s psyched to be finally playing a Solheim Cup in Spain and will relish every moment the experience has to offer this week, enjoying the love and support of the crowds that have already turned out in droves – even on practice days – to see their pride and joy help the European team to their third consecutive Solheim Cup.
“I think more than pressure it's just going to be excitement, adrenaline, and fun,” she said. “I'm going to embrace it and I think it's going to be great to have all the support from Spain, from my family, lots of members from my club. I'm just going to try to go out there and enjoy. I know I'm going to feel nervous and I'm going to feel that adrenaline. I know I can play great golf with that, so I'm just going to enjoy and embrace every moment.”