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The Solheim Cup 1998 Home Page

Solheim Cup can give Swedish golf another boost

Dublin, Ohio, 16th September 1998 - A lot of youngsters in Sweden will be keeping track of play in the Solheim Cup this week.

Golfers starts young and are encouraged and supported as they develop. And it is a system that works: Swedish players make up half of the 12-member European team that will face off against the United States in matches Friday through Sunday at Muirfield Village Golf Club. The Americans lead the series 3-1.

Solheim veteran Annika Sörenstam began playing golf at age 12 in her hometown of Stockholm.

"It's very important to get the junior into golf at an early age," she said. "You can start whenever you want, and it's open to all.

"They have big activities, organized practice, organized tournaments, training camps and so forth. It's very well-run."

Sörenstam, ranked No. 1 in the world, has won four times on the LPGA tour in the last four months, 16 times in the last four years, and is on pace to clinch her third earnings title in that time.

The best junior players in Sweden are identified early and are trained by coaches employed by the Swedish Golf Federation.

"It's a lot more of a family game in Sweden than in a lot of countries," said Pia Nilsson, the Swedish captain of the European team. "The juniors are a lot more welcome, and the families participate. That's a difference."

Nilsson gets much of the credit for the stature her country has gained in the game. She was the first Swede to play college golf in the United States, walking on at Arizona State in the late 1970s and eventually earning a scholarship.

She has been in charge of men's and women's golf for the federation since retiring in 1989 as a professional golfer.

The various tours for juniors in the United States are fine, Nilsson said, "but you have to have a lot of money to play in them. Even though we're small in population (8 million), I think more have a chance to compete and to develop."

"We could learn a little bit from them," American golfer Tammie Green said.

Nilsson, 40, a former Swedish junior champion, has built on the momentum from Liselotte Neumann's victory in the U.S. Women's Open in 1988, Neumann said.

"She has a lot of ideas," Neumann said. "From playing out on the tour, and just coming out and watching a lot of the players, she brings back a lot of ideas for the kids at home, how they can start preparing themselves for turning pro and trying to make a living playing golf."

© The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.