Diana Luna, Italy's first ever Solheim Cup player, tells us about the weight of expectation on her shoulders in 2009, what Catriona Matthew will be like as a captain and who will hold the advantage at Gleneagles
Diana Luna has her name forever etched into the history of the Solheim Cup.
For the 36-year-old holds the title of being the first ever player to represent Italy at the biennial golf tournament.
Her solitary Solheim Cup appearance back in 2009 ensured her legendary status back home.
Twenty six years old at the time, Rome-born Luna surged to third in the LET rankings in 2009 after back-to-back wins at the AIB Ladies Irish Open and SAS Ladies Masters to earn a place outright in captain Alison Nicholas’s team at Rich Harvest Farms country club in Illnois.
She was in hot form going into the biggest team event in women’s golf but only featured twice at the tournament, with her rookie tag counting against her in a team where nine of Europe’s players had previous experience playing in Solheim Cups.
Luna’s two matches in 2009 yielded an impressive one-and-a-half points, however that was not enough to prevent Europe losing 16-12 to the United States to complete a hat-trick of victories for the Americans.
The five-time Ladies European Tour winner teamed up with this year’s European captain Catriona Matthew in the fourballs on the second day, providing Luna with first-hand insight into Matthew’s blossoming leadership qualities.
Up against Angela Stanford and rookie Brittany Lang, Luna and Matthew were staring at defeat until they produced birdies at the 17th and 18th, with Luna rolling in a birdie on the final hole. It resulted in a vital half-point to leave the scores tied at 8-8 going into the singles.
But the Americans would romp to victory in the singles, with Luna bagging a precious win (one of only two outright points for Europe on the final day) against Nicole Castrale.
We caught up with Luna while she was playing at the Fope Invitational pro-am tournament at Golf Club Asiago, in Italy, to reminisce about her Solheim Cup experience and to look ahead to Gleneagles in September.
You were the first Italian player to appear in the Solheim Cup. Can you sum up how special that must have been?
It’s such a big emotion to be a part of this team and it had been a dream for me for many years, so it was nice to finally get to play in the Solheim Cup.
What was the atmosphere like?
It’s an incredible, incredible experience. It is unlike anything else. When you play for the team, all the supporters and everyone from Europe, it is just so nice. It was a really wonderful experience and I will never forget it.
It’s very different to a normal tournament because you really feel the pressure in a very different way. You don’t have to get frustrated if you miss a shot but you are even more concerned because it is not just about you. It’s different.
How does the Solheim Cup compare to other tournaments you have played?
The atmosphere is crazy. It is totally different and you don’t see many tournaments where the people scream that much on a golf course. It’s really cool.
What was your favourite moment?
I think when I holed my putt on 18th to halve my fourball match alongside Catriona Matthew. That was quite a big moment. We were one down going to the 18th and I holed the putt to halve the match.
What was your mindset going into your singles match against Nicole Castrale with the Americans looking like they were taking a grip on the tournament?
I really liked matchplay when I was young and when I played amateur golf. I was very good matchplay player. We don’t get many opportunities to play matchplay after we become professional but I was very happy to play matchplay and, honestly, I was really, really wanting to win. And I got it. I mean I was very sorry of course that not many of us won our matches but that’s how it is. I have done my job.
What was it like playing alongside Catriona Matthew?
Yeah, she was my pairing in the fourballs. She has been fantastic in her career. She is obviously a great player and a great person. I really enjoyed playing with her. She was really nice to me. I was less experienced than her of course and she had just won the British Open before the tournament. I have a lot of very nice memories playing alongside her.
What do you think she will be like as captain at Gleneagles?
I think she will be a very good captain because she is very calm but can be very excited when she needs to be. She has played in many Solheim Cups now so she really knows what the team needs, so I think she will make a great captain.
Can playing at Gleneagles – where the men’s European team won the Ryder Cup in 2014 – be an advantage?
I played Gleneagles last year for the European Golf Team Championships. It’s very good course. It’s a course that needs good accuracy and the putting is crucial. I think it is going to be a great Solheim Cup course; the spaces are good and it’s going to be very nice for the crowds as well. It’s going to be a great venue I’m sure.
Which players do you think can stand out and shine at Gleneagles?
I don’t know. Obviously there are so many good players in both teams. It is very hard to tell – everything can happen. I think Europe has a good chance but anything can happen. It’s so hard to make a prediction. Of course playing in Scotland, probably you would say European players are more used to playing in those conditions.