Daryl Finch / Andrea Jiménez / Marina Rivas
Friday, 22 September 2023, 08:29
The Solheim Cup, the most prestigious women’s golf tournament, has finally arrived in Malaga.
With just over 6,000 residents, nestled between Estepona, Manilva and Gaucín, the picturesque town of Casares becomes Spain’s first host of the women’s equivalent of the Ryder Cup this weekend, marking a significant moment for sport on the Costa del Sol.
Designed by Cabell B. Robinson, with captivating landscapes crafted by Gerald Huggan, Finca Cortesin is one of the country’s premier golf courses. Now it’s the stage where 24 of the world’s top female golfers are set to tee off this Friday morning.
A historic rivalry
The tournament, which has been instrumental in championing women’s golf since 1990, will see teams, of 12 players each, from Europe and the United States go head to head.
The European team, captained by Suzann Pettersen, are the current defending champions and have Spaniard Carlota Ciganda among their ranks. However, Malaga’s Azahara Muñoz, a player with four Solheim Cup appearances, misses out having struggled to regain form since becoming a mother.
Historically, the United States, this time captained by Stacy Lewis, have dominated with 10 titles compared to Europe’s seven. That said, Europe are competing on home soil on this occasion.
Although the competition doesn’t unfold until today, Friday, from Tuesday until Thursday, the teams engaged in official practice on the course at Finca Cortesin which was open to spectators.
Meanwhile, at La Zagaleta in Benahavís, Europe came out on top in the PING Junior Solheim Cup, a preview to the main event.
The competition’s grand opening ceremony, featuring the official draw for the pairings, took place last night, Thursday, at the Marbella Arena.
Those pairs will compete in two formats today and tomorrow, Friday and Saturday: from 8.10am, “foursome” matches will take place, followed by “fourball” matches from 1.40pm.
In the “foursome” format, players take turns hitting on even or odd-numbered holes, while the “fourball” format selects the best score (the fewest strokes to reach the hole).
This format continues until the final day, Sunday, when individual matches (match play) will draw the tournament to a close. The cumulative score over the three days, with the final day being the most crucial, will determine who lifts the trophy.
Significant economic impact
The 2023 Solheim Cup, which is expected to attract over 460 million viewers worldwide and around 80,000 fans at the venue, will have a significant economic impact on the local area, estimated to be approximately 500 million euros.
At the launch of the tournament on Monday morning, Diputación chief Francisco Salado explained that more than 13,000 rooms in 75 hotels have been reserved, with the support of 20 official tour operators.
He also praised the collaborative efforts of public and private entities that made this possible. The combined investment in the event includes 2.1 million euros from the Andalusian regional government, two million euros from the Diputación, two million euros from the Costa del Sol municipalities association, and 1.5 million euros from Marbella and Benahavís town halls.
Over 900 volunteers from 33 different countries, along with 300 marshals, are also involved in organising the tournament.
As it unfolds in Malaga, the Solheim Cup will add another significant chapter to the sporting and social history of Spain.
Carlota Ciganda, Spain’s only representative on the European team, said it would be “a dream” to lift the Solheim Cup in her homeland.
Hosting the tournament in Spain is “something unique, beautiful and great,” she said, adding: “I hope it’ll be a fantastic week for Europe.”
However, there is one negative:“I wish there were more Spanish players on the team. I really do miss Azahara [Muñoz]; it’s a pity she’s not here, especially since it’s in Andalucía, her home.”
Captain. Suzann Pettersen (Norway). Vice-captains: Laura Davies (United Kingdom), Caroline Martens (Norway) and Anna Nordqvist (Sweden).
Team. Celine Boutier (France), Maja Stark (Sweden), Charley Hull (United Kingdom), Leona Maguire (Ireland), Georgia Hall (United Kingdom), Linn Grant (Sweden), Carlota Ciganda (Spain), Madelene Sagstrom (Sweden), Gemma Dryburgh (United Kingdom), Emily Kristine Pedersen (Denmark), and Caroline Hedwall (Sweden).
Captain. Stacy Lewis. Vice-captains: Angela Stanford, Morgan Pressel and Natalie Gulbis.
Team. Lilia Vu, Nelly Korda, Allisen Corpuz, Megan Khang, Jennifer Kupcho, Danielle Kang, Andrea Lee, Lexi Thompson, Rose Zhang, Angel Yin, Ally Ewing and Cheyenne Knight.
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