Lotta Neumann: "I’d be crazy not to be captain"May, 2012
We talk to Europe's new Solheim Cup captain Lotta Neumann
LISELOTTE Neumann was the first Swede to play on the LPGA Tour in 1988, the same year she captured the US Open.
Previously, only French amateur Catherine Lacoste, in 1967, and Laura Davies, the year before Neumann, were the only non-Americans to win that particular Major.
Even two years after that win she was still the lone Swede to play in America. By 1995 there were six, this year there are 13, a number that is second only to the Americans and Koreans.
“She’s the Se Ri Pak and Ayaka Okamoto of Swedish golf,” said her 2013 opposing captain Meg Mallon, referring to the trailblazers of South Korea and Japan, respectively. “She’s a pioneer.”
Neumann and Mallon have met plenty of times over the years, the most recent as captains at last year’s Junior Solheim Cup where the scores were tied.
Neumann was an ever-present in the first six Solheims, winning two and losing four, she was also an assistant to Alison Nicholas in 2009.
Now she will lead the side in her own laid-back manner as Europe, for the first time since 2005, defend and she will be looking to make some more history with a first win on American soil.
You initially said no to the captaincy – why was that?
I was asked in November to put my name forward and I thought it would be fun.
Then, five days later, after thinking about it I wondered if it was the right thing to do. I had been retired for a year and I am really interested in coaching and have joined the LPGA teaching division and got my TPI certificate.
I didn’t want to wait to continue that for another two years and I had been involved in the Solheim for the last four years so wondered if it was time to do other things.
What made you change your mind?
In March I started getting emails from a lot of players and friends asking me to reconsider and the more I started thinking about it the more I thought I would be crazy not to do it and what an opportunity it was.
I might never be asked again so I put my name back on there and was made captain within a few weeks.
Sophie Gustafson sent me a lovely email from China and said she had talked to some other players and they were all behind me so that really helped to change my mind. It is a great feeling when you have their support.
What was your role as an assistant in 2009?
You are there to support the players, you want them to not worry about anything so it could be the smallest thing like food, sorting tickets or their pants might be too long, you just make things easier.
The captain’s role will obviously be different as it will be more thinking about the pairings and form and dealing with the media and speeches.
Will you be picking the brains of any past captains?
I will probably speak to as many as I can like Pia Nilsson and Helen Alfredsson, I have already been in touch with Alison Nicholas.
I might even contact Mickey Walker, Dale Reid and Catrin Nilsmark as the more information you can get is helpful and you can then take what you want from it and learn from any mistakes.
Have you given any thought to your assistants?
I am not quite sure in what direction to go in, I’ll have a look back at those who have played and think who will get on well with the team.
That will happen in the next few months but they have said there is no great rush.
I will probably speak to as many as I can like Pia Nilsson and Helen Alfredsson, I have already been in touch with Alison Nicholas. Where were you for the matches at Killeen Castle?
My mum wasn’t well at the time so I was there for the opening ceremony and then flew over to Sweden.
I had planned on being there and I obviously watched all of it on the TV and it was one of the most exciting sporting occasions I have ever watched.
For a while you were thinking ‘oh my god we’re not going to do this’, then one putt snuck in, then another and it was amazing. I loved it.
How important was the style of that win, coming from behind was a role reversal of previous years?
That will be great for our confidence, so many times we have come up short in the singles. We can win the singles.
In the past we have played our best players in every match. You have your practice rounds and then the matches and I think a lot of the girls were just tired.
Then you start looking at the scoreboards and mentally it is so tough to keep it together. You have played so hard in the first two days.
Now we have more depth so everyone has more energy coming into the singles.
The hard part is to be able to practise and to work on things like your chipping and putting, you just play, play, play and before you know it, it is dark and you have to go to a dinner and then you are up at 5am.
Hopefully we will have another strong team and then be able to rest our leading players.
Do you know all of the 2010 team?
Obviously I know a lot of them well from playing on the same teams, I have met and played with the likes of Sandra Gal and Azahara Munoz. The one I didn’t really know was Christel Boeljon but we said hello at the Kraft.
Can you see any of the juniors from last year making it?
I can see that. Charley Hull was on my team and she is still young but very talented.
Players do come through so early now and you only have to look at Lexi Thompson for proof of that.
The Irish Maguire twins are very talented and Amy Boulden was an excellent player for me.
You never know what routes they are going to take, whether they will go to college or look to turn professional, but I could some of those going on to make the team, if not in two years then in four.
What sort of captain do you think you will be?
I am pretty laid back, I am more a supportive person than someone to yell at them.
I will be there for them, I am not that outgoing so it is important to get different personalities around me so you have a bit of everything in the group.
I want people to have fun with it, it is such a great week but there is so much pressure as well. You want to look back and think I had a great time and, ideally, you will be standing there with the trophy at the end of it.
What were your Solheim highlights and lowlights as a player?
When we won in 2000 that was very special, there were some great matches. St Pierre was a hard one to take, we were leading coming into the singles and that was very tough to take.
Do you still expect Europe to be the underdogs?
We are defending it but we have never won in the States so we will be the underdogs.
We are going to win away at some point and I just have this really good feeling about this and the girls will be so ready and pumped up. We only need 14 points, we don’t need that extra half point.
How did you find the Kraft and watching it as the new Solheim captain?
It was fun to be able to walk down the driving range and say hello to everybody. A lot of the girls came up and said congratulations and it was great to have their support. I hope to be able to get out to a lot of events.
What are you like at making speeches?
It is not my favourite thing (laughs). I don’t think anyone really enjoys it but I will do my best. I don’t know if I will ever be that comfortable with it but it is part of it. The most important part is hanging out with the players and having fun with it.