Suzann Pettersen is letting us all in on the deeper story of the putt she made to win the Solheim Cup for Europe almost a month ago.
She explains in a letter to her infant son, Herman, how that putt tied a bow on golf’s place in her life and how he changed her understanding of who she really is.
The letter was published Thursday on LPGA.com.
It all leads to this moment.
That’s the marketing slogan this last Solheim Cup was built around, and Pettersen explained how it so perfectly framed her finish, the 7-foot putt she made to seal the victory and her decision to immediately announce her retirement.
Pettersen, 38, scooped up Herman and embraced him during the European victory celebration on the 18th green in Scotland.
“When I saw the ball disappear and the tens of thousands of fans surrounding the green roared, I realized, immediately, that the [Solheim Cup promotional] line I’d seen all week was a perfect summation of my career,” Pettersen wrote. “It all led to that moment. My family was all there. You won’t remember it, but I’m sure you will see it in replay for years to come.
“What you can’t see on video is the relief I felt. I knew in that instant that I would never have to ask myself ‘what if…?’ I would never have to wonder if I could make it back. I had answered all those questions. It was a fairytale ending, one I couldn’t have imagined.”
Pettersen details how complications early in her pregnancy prevented her from flying and forced her to remain in Norway until Herman was born. It ended her plans to play the LPGA while pregnant early in 2018, but it also marked the beginning of her transformation as a person, as Herman’s mother. She took all of 2018 off to prepare for Herman’s birth in August of that year and didn’t return to the tour until more than halfway into this season.
“For half-a-dozen years I was consistently ranked as one of the top-10 women golfers in the world, reaching as high as No. 2 on several occasions,” she wrote. “But that performance came at a cost. I didn’t realize it at the time, but tour life became so intertwined with my personal life that I sometimes could not tell them apart. My identity was linked to my job.”
Pettersen said she knew she might be done as a player the moment Herman was born.
“I’ve always heard people say that becoming a parent changes you, but I had assumed that change took weeks, or maybe even months or years,” Pettersen wrote to Herman. “That is wrong. It’s instantaneous. The moment you drew your first breath, I was a different person. Your father was there and as we held you, I asked myself, ‘Is there really any reason to go back to that other life? Is there anything left for me to accomplish in golf that would make it worth leaving you? Would winning another major make that much of a difference to my life or to yours? Would being part of another Solheim Cup make a difference?’ I had played competitively for so long and had been living in this ego bubble – a small, compact world where everything was centered around me and my game. Once that bubble burst, I wasn’t sure I wanted to inflate it again. I had no desire to test my heart, my patience, my love for you and your father to try it.”
Pettersen detailed how the faith European captain Catriona Matthew and fellow Euros showed in her led to another Solheim Cup.
“I don’t think most people realize the sacrifices moms make,” Pettersen wrote. “I don’t know how they do it. There are millions of working moms with kids at home. I don’t think they get enough credit for how they manage their lives.
“The [t]our moms certainly don’t get enough credit. I can’t imagine how the players on tour travel with their kids. Beanie [Matthew] did it with two children. So did Juli Inkster. Given what I’d experienced traveling with just one, I couldn’t imagine what their lives had been like. Sure, the Smucker’s LPGA Child Development Center that goes with the tour is fantastic, but that’s a very small part of being on the road with a child. I think we should sing the praises of working moms everywhere as loud and as often as possible.”
Pettersen concludes her letter this way:
“I hope this story helps you understand our family. I hope it helps you appreciate the discipline and determination it takes to reach goals. Work over time will always pay off. Sometimes you have to make hard decisions. I hope you find the passion in whatever you do that I found in golf – a love that dwelled deep in my heart. And I hope you see in this story, in my one incredible week at the Solheim Cup, that there is a time for everything in life.
“That Sunday was the time for me to step away from golf and be a wife and mother. I hope you can find the peace in your decisions that I have found in mine.”