Fanny Sunesson, the most successful female caddie in modern golf history, is hosting the Sölvesborg Ladies Open in Sweden this week.
Although Sunesson retired from caddying in October 2011, she has remained busy, developing her career as an all-round golf coach.
Her knowledge and experience of working with world class golfers, such as Nick Faldo, Martin Kaymer and Henrik Stenson is legendary and inspirational to the young players who are just beginning their careers on the LET Access Series.
This week, she will share her passion and highly valuable insights with the players and Pro-Am competitors at the Sölvesborg Ladies Open.
In this interview, we discuss her hands-on approach to the tournament and what she learned from 26 years as a top caddie on the men’s PGA European Tour.
Fanny: how did you become involved with the Sölvesborg Ladies Open?
It started when the former chairman of the club asked me if I wanted to talk at the Pro-Am dinner and I said, ‘Of course, if I’m home!’ It developed from there and it’s sort of bigger than I thought: to host a tournament! I wanted the tournament to be as good as possible and have the course in great shape. The set-up is important for me and I wanted it to be fun.
We understand that you have been very hands-on! What is your role during the event?
I’ve been setting up the course every morning with the tournament director. I have been setting the pin positions, I’ve talked to all the marshals; I want to help them to run this tournament well. I’ve been very hands on and have been to Sölvesborg more than I’ve ever been.
Describe your experience organising golf tournaments?
I was tournament director at the Volvo World Golf Challenge, Volvo’s final for their amateurs from over 30 countries, in January, and will be again next year. I did the starting, the recording and everything to do with golf! It was a good challenge and I had the opportunity to use all my knowledge.
What is your experience of the Ladies European Tour?
This is my first European ladies’ event. I played an LET event in Sweden (at Borlange) as an amateur in 1986 when I was invited. I think it’s fantastic. I coached one of the girls so I was in Kristianstad last week. It’s a great standard for the girls and a good chance to get on the Ladies European Tour. It’s a great chance to compete and see how they compare to players from other countries.
How far are you associated with women’s golf?
I’m coaching Madelene Augustsson from Sölvesborg. Her back was hurt so she couldn’t play yesterday. I’m not a swing coach, more of an overall coach, focusing on how you think on the course, how you practice and strategy on the course. I met Martin Kaymer when he was an amateur and we worked together until last year.
This week I’m going to do a Q&A with the girls. The players can ask me anything they want, so they can pick my brains. I see that as a way of giving back to the girls that are here and yesterday the Pro-Am was such as success and three sponsors said that want to continue so we are already planning things we can do better next year.
What are the questions you get asked most frequently?
I recently did a talk for 80 girls, all single handicaps, who asked questions such as how to prepare, how do you deal with things that aren’t going well, how to plan on the course, how to practice, how to keep track of the wind, so many different questions!
What was your biggest lesson as a caddie?
In the first year, I learned that I would always say what I believed as a caddie and what I thought, even if it wasn’t the same as the player.
One other thing that I realise now is that I paid a lot of attention to the state of mind of the player and I tried to help them stay in the best state of mind for performing. After taking coaching courses I realise now the importance of this but in the beginning I did it automatically by feel. Finding the right state of mind is an individual thing and so it’s through experience and getting to know the person that you find out what works for that player.
What was the highlight of your caddying career?
Three things: The Ryder Cup at Oakhill, The Open at St Andrews 1990 and the Masters 1990: those three were really special.
What was it like being a woman caddie in a man’s world? Were there any other women caddying on tour?
No; not many at all. Right now there is one girl on the European Tour: Janet, who caddies for Jeev Milkha Singh. It’s always been great. From the start no-one wanted me as a local caddie - but after I got my first bag, I didn’t have a problem getting a player to work for. There was one player, who, the sponsor didn’t want to have a girl caddie. That was the only time.
Would you recommend caddying as a career for other women?
It is a great career, so absolutely. I was very lucky and I got to work with some great players and met fantastic people, travelled to interesting places. I’m very grateful for a brilliant career. I worked hard but had a lot of fun. I would absolutely recommend it! How could I not when I enjoyed it so much?
The Sölvesborg Ladies Open hosted by Fanny Sunesson is taking place at Sölvesborg Golf Club in Sweden on May 22-24.