Solheim Cup hero Suzann Pettersen has revealed the impact of holing the winning putt at Gleneagles was “overwhelming” and that she wept uncontrollably in the hours that followed Europe’s victory over the United States.
Moments after clinching the vital point that allowed Catriona Matthew’s team to regain the trophy, Pettersen announced her retirement from professional golf.
The 38-year-old Norwegian details the events that led to the emotional climax of her career in a lengthy open letter to her 14-month-old son Herman. It has been published on LPGA.com.
Pettersen describes how at around 11pm on that tumultuous September Sunday, with the victory party in full swing, she took herself away from the celebrations to spend some time with her young son.
“I sat in one of those comfy chairs in the dark room of the Gleneagles Hotel listening to you breathe,” she wrote in the letter.
“I looked at my phone and it had blown up with thank-you messages from people around the world. LPGA players, staff, Europeans, Americans – it didn’t matter. Messages were ticking in one after another.
“I had become a lot more emotional as a mom. But this was overwhelming. I wept like I hadn’t in many years. For the first time as a golfer, I was completely, totally satisfied, content and at peace.”
Pettersen explains that throughout most of her playing career she lived in a selfish “insular bubble” that burst when she became pregnant at the end of 2017.
She also details the difficulties she faced with husband Christian Ringvold in trying to conceive and how a problematic pregnancy left her unable to compete on tour.
The two-time major champion, who celebrated 22 professional victories, acknowledges she was a controversial wildcard selection and when she was first approached as a potential pick she thought the idea was “crazy”.
This is the first time Pettersen has elaborated in detail on the build up and aftermath of the astonishing climax to her career which came in Scotland last month.
The letter is almost 3,000 words in length and begins with an admission that much of her playing success led to a loss of personal perspective.
“For half a dozen years I was consistently ranked as one of the top-10 women golfers in the world, reaching as high as No. 2 on several occasions,” she wrote.
“But that performance came at a cost. I didn’t realise it at the time, but tour life became so intertwined with my personal life that I sometimes could not tell them apart.
“My identity was linked to my job. How I played, how my practice sessions went on a particular day, how many putts I made or missed – all of that affected my moods, my priorities, my relationships and most of my decisions.”
Pettersen admits it was a “selfish” existence and that she had zero qualms about saying “no” to anything that might get in the way of her golf.
She says her outlook radically altered when she became pregnant. Addressing her son in the letter, Pettersen said: “You taught me an invaluable lesson about the things in life that really matter.
“About patience and perspective; about the extraordinary work ethic and monumental balancing act women around the world display; and about the sacrifices and selfless choices working mothers make every day.
“It began a few days before Christmas 2017. That’s when your father and I learned that we were four weeks pregnant.
“It hadn’t been easy. We wanted you so desperately that I underwent in vitro fertilization treatment, receiving a series of injections that prepared my body for pregnancy.”
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Pettersen planned to continue competing through the early months of her pregnancy but was overcome by debilitating fatigue that left her needing hours of extra sleep.
The issue reached its climax when she was due to fly to a tournament in Thailand and doctors told her she was grounded. “I was stranded in Oslo, which, in hindsight, was the greatest thing that could have happened to me,” she revealed.
“I was surrounded by family and friends, all there to support me, even though the first month I was a complete basket case, worrying every moment that something was going wrong.”
Herman was born in August 2018, 13 months before his mother played such a pivotal role at Gleneagles.
Pettersen barely competed for two years and only came back to play in the Great Lakes Invitational in July because she felt a responsibility to one of her long-time sponsors.
She played alongside Europe’s captain Matthew who, along with team-mates Anna Nordqvist and Caroline Hedwall, sought to persuade Pettersen to continue practising and to ready herself for the Solheim Cup.
“I guess I was a controversial captain’s pick for that Solheim Cup,” she said. “Having not played much in two years, I understood the sentiment.
“But I also knew that matchplay in a team environment was much different than 72 holes of strokeplay.”
Pettersen played two warm-up events and describes the pain she felt being separated from her young son. She also acquired a new perspective regarding mothers who continue to compete on tour.
“I can’t imagine how the players on Tour travel with their kids,” she said. “Beanie (Matthew’s nickname) did it with two children. So did Juli Inkster.”
The tagline for the Solheim Cup was “it all leads to this moment” and that had extra resonance for Pettersen, especially because it fell to the Norwegian to hole the winning six-foot putt against Marina Alex.
It was the last putt of the last match on the course and it came on the final green after Bronte Law had put a European victory within touching distance only seconds earlier.
“I hit a perfect putt but in golf you never know what will happen,” she said.
“When I saw the ball disappear and the tens of thousands of fans surrounding the green roared, I realised, immediately, that the line I’d seen all week was a perfect summation of my career. It all led to that moment.”
It was an occasion of absolute fulfilment. In the letter she wrote: “What you can’t see on video is the relief I felt. I knew in that instant that I would never have to ask myself ‘what if…?’
“I would never have to wonder if I could make it back. I had answered all those questions. It was a fairytale ending, one I couldn’t have imagined.”