Meet Team Europe's 'lucky charm' for the Solheim Cup
He would never say as much but Mark Wallington is something of a lucky charm when it comes to the Solheim Cup. This will be the caddie’s fourth ‘appearance’ and his previous three couldn’t have gone much better on a personal level.
In Ireland he helped Sophie Gustafson to a perfect four-for-four as Europe regained the trophy, then two years later he was called in to assist a 17-year-old Charley Hull as Lotta Neumann’s team annihilated the Americans 18-10 in Colorado. Hull lost her opening match but then added a couple of points including a 5&4 trouncing of golden girl Paula Creamer in the second singles.
Then, in 2015, the former Warrington Wolves rugby league star was on Mel Reid’s bag. Reid didn’t lose a match in four outings, winning three and halving the other.
This year, thankfully, Wallington is back in the Solheim ranks and by the side of Emily Pedersen. The Dane is one of Annika Sorenstam’s four picks for this week after impressing on the LPGA Tour. The year began with a conditional card, that is all now sorted, as is a Solheim Cup debut, and she couldn’t have a safer pair of hands by her side this week.
On the captain’s pick…
“We found out on the Sunday afternoon at Kingsbarns that Emily had made the team. We missed the cut [at the Women’s British Open] and Annika had kept everything secret so we still didn’t know. A few people thought we had a chance but you never know and Annika had quite a few options.
Over the last nine weeks in America Emily has been 10th for scoring average and that is a massive stat, she played a practice round with Suzann Pettersen at Kingsbarns and I think Suzann was quite impressed by her length and that is a big advantage this week.”
On Pedersen’s game…
“I started the year with Mika Miyazato and she then decided to play solely in Japan. Emily phoned me and asked if could do a few weeks with her on the LPGA Tour. She didn’t know if she would be in any more events after that. We clicked and she got her card sorted for next year so we then sat down and decided to make it full time.
I have got a lot of respect for her, she has got a lot of respect for me, and we get on. She is a fiery character and I actually enjoy that, I love to see fire in a golfer but it doesn’t get out of hand and she’s been brilliant. It just works.
Emily could be anything – she has the desire, she’s as strong as an ox and every part of her game is solid. I have worked with Michelle Wie and she is the only player I’ve seen who is similar in terms of compressing the ball.
And her work ethic is great. If she hasn’t hit her irons well I’ll suggest we spend an hour working on it. Some will head out to dinner and start again the next day.”
“It’s a big occasion for the players. The first few days they will be fine, then when the pairings are announced that’s when the players start to feel it.
The Friday breakfast is quiet so you have to keep talking and keep the mind away from the golf but without making it false, the conversation has to be natural. The players will pick up on it when you start talking about stuff that you normally don’t.
I don’t really get nervous but the adrenaline is definitely going, the walk from the putting green to the 1st tee makes your hair stand on end, it’s amazing.
Once the matches are up and running and you get the first few holes out the way then they go into the zone and, before you know it, the match is finished.”
On the preparations…
“I did some research from home last week but most of my work will be on the Monday as players will be busy with media time. I’ll probably be on the course from first light to dark.
We’ll have practice rounds and I’ll do some extra bits on Tuesday and Wednesday and by then we’ll have everything finalised.
It’s a team event so there are lots of other eyes and ears around which makes it easier. We’ll have a big team room and we’ll all talk about certain holes and shots, nobody is keeping anything secret that week. It is quite an intense week for everyone but well worth it.”
On the best bits…
“My favourite Solheim moment with Sophie Gustafson came at the 18th in her singles with Stacy Lewis. Stacy was close and we had a pitching wedge but the wind was moving about and the pin was on the back shelf.
Sophie said she needed to know if the wedge was enough. It was and I drummed that into her but in truth I wasn’t sure if it could get there if the wind switched. But you have to give the player confidence and she hit a great, committed shot.
“When Charley played Paula Creamer in the singles we were on the 1st tee and Charley looked down at Paula’s shoes and said, ‘Those shoes really suit you, they’re beautiful.’
There was no malice or kidology in it and she was 100 per cent genuine but Paula was blown away. I said to Charley, ‘You’ve just won us this match’. She didn’t know what I meant.
Afterwards she asked Paula to sign her ball, I tried telling her you can’t do that after winning 5&4 but it was all genuine as she wanted it for a friend of hers.
“In 2015 Mel had had a rough year and played in Prague needing a top-eight finish to get in the side, knowing that she wasn’t getting a pick. She tied for fifth so that was amazing.
She had a putt in the singles against Brittany Lang and she thought it was left edge. I just had a gut feeling it was straight so I said that. She canned it, I was standing a yard from the water, and she jumped on me. You never forget those sorts of moments.”
More from the Solheim Cup...
Keep up to date with all the action from the Solheim Cup with Lady Golfer