Fanny Sunesson: On Faldo, the Majors & six Ryder Cups
Within five months of working together Nick Faldo and Fanny Sunesson had teamed up to win the Masters and the Open, the Swede had never even been to Augusta before.
The previous year Faldo had slipped into his first Green Jacket but he had obviously seen something in Sunesson that he believed would help him further and it worked like a dream.
Sunesson is far too modest and self-effacing, most likely two of the many qualities that Faldo liked in the first place, to even suggest that she won anything but, in their time together, Faldo collected four Majors, dazzled in various Ryder Cups and spent nearly 100 weeks as World No 1.
Carrying his bag, helping to select his clubs, knowing his swing and mind inside out and keeping him on the straight and narrow throughout was Sunesson. She remains as loyal to Faldo, and all her employees, today. She won’t breach any confidences and don’t expect a warts and all autobiography any time soon.
But there is still plenty to enjoy about the girl from Karlshamn who began life as a caddy by being routinely turned down by various members of the European Tour.
You played in an LET event as an amateur in 1986, what do you remember of that?
I played with Alison Nicholas and I remember that she scored a lot better than I did. I would have scored something high, nothing to remember, but I remember thinking that we didn’t play that dissimilar. She didn’t have a great day, but she scored OK and kept it together. I saw her at the Solheim Cup and we talked about it.
Your first job as a caddy was with Jaime Gonzalez of Brazil, how did you get together with him?
I went to a tournament in Sweden in 1986 and put my name forward to caddy. I got the first bus up to the course and stood in the queue with the other caddies, I finally got to the front and would ask the players ’excuse me sir, do you want a caddy?’
The first player would say ’I’ve already got one’ and then speak to the guy behind me in the queue. Then the same thing would happen and in the end there were three girls left; me, Annika and Charlotta Sorenstam.
Luckily there were three guys who would rather have a girl than pull a trolley and I got together with Jaime. I think I was OK, he was pretty easy to club, if I hit a 5 he would hit a 6.
He asked me to work with him the following week, that would have been my club championship but I missed that, and Jaime gave me a bunch of Balata balls which was amazing.
One of your first jobs was with Howard Clark, a player who was renowned for going through a lot of caddies. What was that like?
It was great, he was very precise. Howard was tough to work for so keeping the job with him was good. I enjoyed him as a person, we are still good friends and I learnt a lot – he was very good with yardages and strategy. He was an amazing player, his ball striking was unbelievable.
You got together with Faldo at the end of 1989, he had just won two Majors in three years and been close throughout 88. How surprised were you to be approached?
I had caddied at the Ryder Cup in 1989 with Howard but I was shocked when Nick asked me, he was the No 1 in the world and had just won five events that year. We worked really well straightaway, we are both perfectionists and I think we were well suited.
Do you have to be like that to get on with him?
It was a plus to work hard as he worked really hard so why shouldn’t the caddy do likewise? That is just the way I am, I think we both enjoyed each other’s company. We spoke the other day, he is almost a bit like a brother. I care for him like a brother.
Is he very different away from the course?
In his commentary you get more the impression that he is funny. He is a very funny guy, he is a bit shy but, if you know him, he’s very funny. He is just very focused on the course, everyone does things differently and he did it in his own way. Not everyone is like a Lee Trevino and has to chat a lot.
Is it lonely caddying for him?
Why should I feel lonely? I never felt lonely. You don’t need to chat to have a good time and do a good job, I had a fantastic time and we did talk and his way of focusing worked so well for him. No, I was never lonely. I loved working with Nick. In my coaching I try to help people find their way of performing their best and Nick had his own way.
I would say Henrik’s 66 at The Players was in the top five best rounds I have seen” Had you been to the Masters before Nick’s defence in 1990?
No. That was my first time and it was pretty special. I loved it there, from the moment I got to walk on the premises I thought it was special. The course is amazing and to caddy for the defending champion was amazing.
A few days later you are getting ready for another playoff, this time with Ray Floyd. What do you say to a player then?
It depends on the situation. In 1990 I can’t really remember, I’m not sure I needed to say anything. Sometimes we didn’t, we were so in tune at certain times. We were both very focused in, a good way.
The 1996 Masters will always be remembered for the final round between Faldo and Greg Norman, the latter’s six-shot lead turned into a five-shot win for Faldo?
On the course you are so focused on doing the right thing for Nick. Then, when it’s all done and you are on the 18th green, then there was a very strange feeling of elation and happiness in that we had done it but then sadness for Greg.
It ended up being horrible for him with the press and they shot him down, I think that’s bad, they made out that Greg lost it but Nick won it. He played an amazing round of 67 and the press crucified Greg and that was unfair. I felt genuinely sorry for Greg.
One of the key moments was Faldo’s approach to the 13th, a shot that you both discussed for a while before he hit one of the shots of the week into the heart of the green?
It was a tough hanging lie and we were between the 2-iron or 5-wood. The wood didn’t really sit very well so he hit the iron and it was not just a fantastic shot but, under the circumstances and the pressure, it was an incredible shot. Nick hit some famous long irons but he was also great withthe short irons, he was a great iron player.
How involved were you in the working of his swing?
I was part of the team, I was involved in the swing and the putting and I had a lot communication with David Leadbetter. So I learnt what he and David were working on and what they wanted to achieve so I was very involved.
If I saw something during a round I might not say something as that depended on the situation. It always depended on the situation.
Where will you be for Masters week this year?
At Augusta, I go back every year and have been every year but one since 1990. I have played it as well, I love the place. I see friends and last year I did some commentating for Swedish TV. Whatever I’m doing I’ll be there.
Will you see Nick and have a little reminisce?
Yes, I don’t think I’m the sort of person who will reminisce a lot but we might talk about old times.
How easy did you find it to always say what was in your head and not what the player wanted to hear?
That was one of my things, and I learnt that in my first year, to say what I was thinking. Otherwise there is no point being there. That can be very tough but also one of the most important things of being a caddy. If I was just agreeing there would be no point. Sometimes also it is how you say it, not just what you say.
At the Open, the same year in 1990, Nick had led by five overnight. His lead was down to two at the 15th when you reportedly asked him if he was thinking of getting a dog?
I wanted to stop him thinking about things. I’m sure he knew what I was doing but he had to answer me and had to get away from the situation that we were in. It worked although I’m sure he knew what was happening.
Would you do that a lot?
It was more just knowing when to do it, I couldn’t say I did this or that all the time, it just depended on what was happening.
Is that the best you saw him play?
He played fantastic that week, the last round at the 1996 Masters was also unbelievable.
How detailed were your preparations in the early 90s?
I would walk the course early in the week, walk to check the pins in the mornings and also watch some play.
I did a lot on the yardages, I did my own book and I knew everything, I had numbers from everywhere. I had probably more detail than the books have today. I spent a lot of time on the book, I wanted to be prepared.
For green reading it was nothing like the books today with 150 arrows going this way or that but I had the general idea the way the greens were going. Things move on and, if it helps, then great.
You worked at six Ryder Cups, what were your particular highlights?
The match in 1989 was very special as it was my first. I didn’t go in 1987, when I was caddying for Jose Rivero, as he took one of his brothers instead to the States so that was a big disappointment and the press wrote a lot about it.
It was emotional to get to The Belfry in ’89 and then to win over there, at Oak Hill, in 1995 was pretty incredible. That was huge.
The pitch shot to save par and beat Curtis Strange at the last was one of the most iconic shots in Ryder Cup history. Did you expect him to pull off such a shot?
When you’re there you are just focused on what you are doing. If you had asked me would he do it, I would have said yes, I thought he thought he would do that.
Did players try to poach you a lot?
I had a few guys ask me but I always stayed with Nick.
By 2007 you were working for your fellow Swede Henrik Stenson, were you friendly before getting together?
I knew Henrik a little bit, his team called me and then I spoke with Henrik and it worked out well.
We had a pretty good start, we won in Dubai and then the World Match Play a few weeks later. And I was with him in Kentucky for the Ryder Cup when Nick was captain.
The following year, in 2009, Henrik won the Players at Sawgrass. I would say his 66 on the Sunday was in the top five best rounds I have seen.
I love the Players and it was great to have caddied for the winner there.
Are you the sort of person who has regrets?
I don’t have regrets, Nick and I did everything we could. If I could have a wish I would have loved to have won the US Open in 1990 when Hale Irwin was the winner. And it would have been nice to have a PGA to complete the Majors.
You might not have won a PGA as a caddy but you worked with Martin Kaymer for seven years, a period in which he won the PGA and also reached No 1 in the world?
Yes, we met when he was an amateur with the German team and I ended up coaching him. He is a great person and player and it was fun to see him get to be the best player in the world.
Who do you work with now?
I work with a few golfers and have just started with a premier league football team in Sweden. Last year I was one of Carin Koch’s assistants at the Solheim Cup and that was fantastic, it was my first time at the event. Otherwise I do talks and I am the tournament director for Volvo’s World Final and company days. But coaching is what I’m most passionate about.
As a coach I help with a combination of mental and golf course strategy and preparation, which go together well.
Do you get recognised a lot?
It happens, I don’t really think about it. I have lost a lot of weight so people maybe don’t recognise me! I stopped eating refined sugar three and a half years ago and I start every day with a green shake.
And, finally, how good is your golf now?
I didn’t play a lot in the 90s, I took it back up in 2014 and, at that point, I hadn’t played for eight years. I worked a lot in 2015 but I hope to play more this year, I’m down to 4.6 now.