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Saturday, June 12, 2021

Stenson and Sorenstam looking to the future on home soil

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Tournament hosts Henrik Stenson and Annika Sorenstam are hoping to inspire the next generation of golfing superstars as the European Tour and Ladies European Tour break new ground at the 2021 Scandinavian Mixed.

For the first time, a field of 78 men and 78 women are going head to head on the same course competing for one prize fund and one trophy at Vallda Golf and Country Club. All the players share the same practice facilities and men and women have been drawn together for the tournament days, as well as playing practice rounds together.

Sorenstam and Stenson have both enjoyed incredible careers at the very top of the game, with Sorenstam claiming ten Major Championships, while Stenson has won the Open Championship and twice came out on top in the Race to Dubai.

And the superstar Swedish duo are now hoping the ground-breaking mixed event in their homeland can inspire boys and girls alike to follow in their footsteps.

On the course, the duo have very different goals this week, with Sorenstam having retired in 2008 and only recently started occasionally playing competitively again.

“I’m trying to practice,” she said. “I just worked with my coach the last few days, it’s been years, so there are some things where I feel like I’m going back to square one but it’s fun to be out here.

“My expectations are very different, the game is not at all where ot was when I was finishing up in 2008 but I’m in a different place in my life. I’m happily married and I’ve got two kids that are ten and 11 and I’ve got different ventures. Playing golf right now is just an added thing on my schedule. I don’t have as much time as I probably need to put into my game but it’s okay, I’m happy about that.”

Stenson, meanwhile, is looking to put some indifferent form by his high standards behind him and kickstart his mission to make a sixth Ryder Cup appearance.

“It feels great to be in Sweden,” said Stenson. “To be partnering up with Annika and doing this event it’s a great feeling. She’s the greatest female player of all-time, certainly in my book and I think in pretty much everyone else’s too. It’s a great honour to do this event together with her and to do it in Sweden as well, I think it’s a very fitting place to do it.

“We’re going to have this event seen and heard about around the world. It’s a totally new concept and I’m pretty excited that we can do it in our sport. Equality is very far in Sweden but in many other parts of the world it’s not so I think they’re going to hear about this event and maybe take some steps in the right direction.

“I’ve played a fair bit of golf with girls both over in America and here in Europe and we’re going to see within the girls line-up here you’re going to see some that are hitting it far and some that are hitting it a little bit shorter and are good on other aspects of the game. I think we’re going to see a very competitive bunch of girls coming out from the LET and being ready to take on the boys on the European Tour. Bring it on – let the games begin.”

The pair will tee off with fellow Scandinavian great Thomas Bjørn on days one and two, with the trio boasting 44 wins between them across the LET and European Tour. And the 2018 Ryder Cup Captain is looking forward to playing with golfing “royalty”.

He is joined in the field by fellow Danish star Emily Kristine Pedersen, who begins her 2021 LET season this week in Sweden having played at last week’s US Women’s Open where she finished tied 23rd.

Meanwhile, two time LET winner Meghan MacLaren is also relishing the chance to once again take on the men as she tees it up this week having already proved she can take on her male counterparts, having finished second at the Jordan Mixed Open – a 2019 European Challenge Tour event where the field included players from the Ladies European Tour and the Legends Tour.

“I have been really looking forward to it,” said MacLaren. “I have been in the United States for quite a bit this year, but this is an event I always wanted to come back to. It’s cool to be getting started.

“I am very proud. It still hurts a little bit, it still cuts when people say it, but it was an unbelievable week and even the events I’ve won, I’ve never felt that much support throughout a single week. It was really quite overwhelming to be honest, but it will be a week that I remember forever. Just the three Tours together and what it did for women’s golf and golf as a whole. It was really special to be a part of that.”

Clandeboye’s Jonathan Caldwell is the sole Irish representative in the field.

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