ANDALUCIA, Spain — She’s the only player on either side who isn’t currently an active LPGA Tour member. She’s also one of the many veterans that European Captain Suzann Pettersen will look to for leadership throughout these Solheim Cup matches.
Sweden’s Caroline Hedwall was the first player in Solheim Cup history to win every match, all five points in one contest. That was a decade ago, in 2013 in Colorado, the first time Europe won the Solheim Cup on American soil. Hedwall was a captain’s pick that year, just as she had been in 2011 at Killeen Castle in Ireland when Europe also won.
She is a captain’s pick again this year. At age 34 with seven career LET victories, an 8-6-1 Solheim Cup record and as much big-time match-play experience as any player on Pettersen’s squad, Hedwall has earned the respect and deference of her teammates. That was on full display during practice days when the other Swedes looked to her for guidance and many of the younger players stopped and listened whenever she had something to say.
“It's such a great atmosphere and we're having a lot of fun on the team,” Hedwall said during her pre-tournament press conference. “It’s just a pleasure to be here. I'm really looking forward to the golf starting on Friday.”
That reads like standard athlete filler, but her earnestness when you hear it shows that Hedwall truly feels honored to be a part of this team. And why wouldn’t she? She was a dark-horse pick, a gut call for Pettersen who knew Hedwall’s heart and her will to get the job done would be critical coming down the stretch. Ironically, Pettersen was, herself, a surprise pick by Captain Catriona Matthew in 2019. That seemingly bold choice turned into one of the most iconic moments in Solheim Cup history.
Many casual fans, especially in America, will be surprised to learn that Hedwall doesn’t play an active LPGA Tour schedule these days. Since 2020, she’s chosen to focus on the LET where she won last year’s Costa del Sol Open de España in Andalucia, just up the road at Alferini Golf Course. That victory was another factor Pettersen no doubt took into account when making her picks.
“Coming back to this area obviously brings back great memories,” Hedwall said of her playoff victory over Morgane Métraux last November. “I'm feeling really comfortable. I like the course a lot and it's just great to be here.”
In one of her few appearances stateside in the last three years, Hedwall went 3-1 in the Hanwha LIFEPLUS International Crown at TPC Harding Park this past spring, bolstering an impressive match-play career that goes all the way back to her junior and amateur days.
“Being a junior, that was a big goal for me to qualify for the Junior Solheim Cup when I think I was 17,” Hedwall said. “Just to get my European bag with my name on it, that was huge. I mean, it's basically the same experience, like the big Cup. So it was just great preparation for the big one. I think everyone that's played the Junior Solheim, they've loved it, like when you play the big one.”
That comment was not made out of the blue. Hedwall gave that pep talk in front of two of her fellow Swedes, Maja Stark and Linn Grant, who, despite both being LPGA Tour winners, are Solheim Cup rookies with Junior Solheim experience. It was just the kind of instinctive leadership that Pettersen hoped to get out of her veteran captain’s pick.
“We've had a lot of Swedes playing in the Solheim Cup for Europe and we have a lot of them coming up as well,” Hedwall said. “We have three Swedes on the Junior team now, so I mean, I think we're just going to keep coming.
“Going back for me, I watched a lot of Swedes play (the Solheim Cup) in Barsebäck (Sweden) in 2003. It was always a dream after that to play Solheim. I think Linn and Maja have a similar experience watching it on TV and just wanting to be there one day. So obviously it helps to have a lot of role models to look up to.”
Without saying it out loud, Hedwall recognizes that she is now in that role, the player the juniors will look up to, and the leader her rookie teammates will lean on when the air gets thin and the heart rate quickens.
“I feel like it's just a super strong team,” Hedwall said, again within earshot of her rookie teammates. “We’ve had so many Europeans doing so great this season, Maja, Linn, Celine and Charley. It just seems like a lot of the European players are in form. I think it's going to be a great match.”