The best Spanish golfer was going to be a soccer player. Carlota Ciganda grew up surrounded by soccer everywhere. Her uncle José Ángel, el Cuco (Ziganda, with a Z), played 11 seasons in the elite between Athletic and Osasuna. Her father, Jesús, spent time as a soccer player and coach in amateur teams. Her brother and one of her cousins tried their luck in Segunda B and Tercera. And she showed off skills with the ball. Young Carlota was the best on a team of boys, she took the fouls and the corners and gave the ball 150 consecutive touches. “She was a good striker,” she remembers.
In that childhood full of sports, Ciganda expressed his competitiveness in everything he practiced. Soccer shared attention with paddle tennis, skiing, racquetball and golf. And it was this discipline that she won the contest. Raised in the Ulzama valley, 20 kilometers from Pamplona, where she was born 33 years ago, Carlota began to play with clubs in the area club. From football she left her passion for Athletic. From the pediment, the speed and strength of her arms. As a golfer, she has established herself as the great Spanish reference and the heroine of the Solheim Cup that Europe won this Sunday against the United States on the Finca Cortesín course (Málaga). The first time that the great duel was held in Spain, it was the only Spanish woman in the European troop who holed the putt decisive.
“I will never be able to forget this in my life,” said Ciganda. With a draw on the scoreboard, the continental captain, the Norwegian Suzann Pettersen, her idol, approached the Navarrese on the 16th hole: “It’s your time. You are in front of all of Spain, of your country. Do it for them and nail it.” And he nailed it. First with a second shot on that hole to close the birdie, and then with a shot to the flag on the par three 17th to kill Nelly Korda and allow Europe to retain the Solheim with a tie at 14. Carlota wanted a high-quality rival in that crash and destiny crossed her path with the number three in the world, winner of a major and Olympic gold in Tokyo. It was the kind of challenge the Spaniard needed to exploit her best golf, a mix of passion and wisdom, her perfect maturity in her sixth Solheim. Since her debut in Colorado 2013, in the first European victory on North American territory, there are 13 points achieved in 23 games played, and four crowns in six editions.
European golf surrendered at his feet. “It’s pure energy. She is a leader without a doubt. She was always in the amateur teams and since she started playing Solheim she is very passionate. She has a brutal game. She intimidates. She doesn’t shrink from anything. She can face any situation she can overcome it. I compare her to Rafa Nadal,” says Marta Figueras-Dotti, pioneer of Spanish golf and current president of the European women’s tour (LET). Azahara Muñoz, the other great Spanish figure and Ciganda’s partner in team tournaments since amateurs, analyzes: “At Solheim she goes crazy, but as a person she is very calm, she does everything with a lot of patience. She doesn’t talk much but she is very funny. And as a player, since she was little she has won everything. She never gives up, she is super positive. If she has a bad day, she accepts it and the next she can play very well. She doesn’t martyr herself. She treats herself very well. That as an athlete is very important. It’s the best thing she has about herself, what she wants from her and how she trusts her… Honestly, I was a little scared that the decisive point was hers and on top of her in Spain. I can’t imagine the pressure she must have been under, but she hit some spectacular shots, she couldn’t have done better. This is going to be very good for you.”
Carlota thus completed the circle after being Spanish champion in all training categories, from juniors to absolute, a resume that includes six victories in the tour European, two in the American, in 2016, waiting for the top in a major. “It’s what I’m missing,” conspires Ciganda, today 28th in the world and the only Spanish among the top 100 in the ranking; “I feel prepared and have the game that is needed. I have to trust myself to take that step.” So far she has collected 10 places in the top 10 of a major, including four third places, the last this year in the Women’s PGA Championship (at the Evian she was disqualified for purposely signing her card incorrectly when she disagreed with a penalty due to slow play).
The success of this Solheim now reinforces his conviction that this step is close to being climbed. It would be the culmination of a path that in her professional debut in 2012, after forging herself at the University of Arizona, led her to win the Order of Merit as best player of the year and that in 2019 made her the first Spanish player in history to he top ten world. “What best defines her is how professional and competitive she is when she plays golf. Although she has a lot of experience, one of her greatest virtues is that she wants to evolve and improve every day. It’s very easy to settle in, think that you already have everything, and she always wants to learn, she is open to new things. That is a very important part of her game,” she explains. caddie, Álvaro Alonso, in his second year working with the Navarrese. “Carlota is already a legend after this Solheim. But she will continue working to be better and achieve more things,” he adds.
Heir to the spirit that Seve Ballesteros instilled in Europe, Ciganda was the best glue in the locker room when other figures sharpened their egos. The Spaniard remained silent when the captain left her out in the first round on Friday, and spoke on the course with four points out of four possible, without ever being behind on the scoreboard and not once reaching the 18th hole. Hers is the cry of “Come on, girls!” who encourages the team. There is no one like her to symbolize her passion for a tournament in which the players do not earn a single euro. She is paid with glory.
All the results of the Solheim Cup 2023.
You can follow EL PAÍS Deportes in Facebook y Xclick here to receive our weekly newsletter.
Subscribe to continue reading
Read without limits