The best Spanish golfer was going to be a footballer. Carlota Ciganda grew up surrounded by football everywhere. His uncle José Ángel, el Cuco (Ziganda, with Z), played 11 seasons in the elite between Athletic and Osasuna. His father, Jesus, spent time as a footballer and coach for amateur teams. His brother and one of his cousins tried their luck in Segunda B and Tercera. And she showed off ball skills. The young Carlota was the best in a team of boys, she took the fouls and corners and gave 150 touches in a row to the ball. "She was a good front," she recalls.
In that childhood full of sport, Ciganda squeezed his competitiveness in everything he practiced. Football shared attention with paddle tennis, skiing, fronton and golf. And it was this discipline that won the contest. Raised in the valley of Ulzama, 20 kilometers from Pamplona, where she was born 33 years ago, Carlota began to develop with the sticks in the club of the area. From football he had his passion for Athletic. From the pediment, speed and strength of arms. As a golfer she has established herself as the great Spanish reference and the heroine of the Solheim Cup that Europe conquered this Sunday against the United States at the Finca Cortesín course (Malaga). The first time that the great duel was held in Spain, it was the only Spanish of the European troop who holed the decisive putt.
Chronicle: Europe retains the Solheim with a majestic Charlotte Ciganda
"I'm not going to be able to forget this in my life," Ciganda said. With boards on the scoreboard, the continental captain, the Norwegian Suzann Pettersen, her idol, approached the Navarre on the 16th hole: "It's your moment. 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 buckle the birdie, and then with a shot to flag on the par three of the 17th to fulminate Nelly Korda and allow Europe to retain the Solheim with a tie at 14. Carlota wanted a rival of height in that clash and fate crossed her 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 blend of passion and wisdom, the perfect maturity in her sixth Solheim. Since his debut in Colorado 2013, in the first European victory in North American territory, they 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 any doubt. She was always in the amateur teams and since she started playing Solheim she is very passionate. He has a brutal game. Intimidates. He doesn't shrink with anything. You can face any situation that 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 partner of Ciganda in team tournaments from amateurs, analyzes: "In 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's very funny. And as a player, since childhood she has won everything. She never gives up, she's super positive. If he has a bad day, he accepts it and the next he can play very well. He does not martyr himself. She treats herself very well. That as an athlete is very important. It's the best thing you have, what you want and how you trust it... Honestly I was a little afraid that it was his the decisive point and above in Spain. I can't imagine the pressure he must have had, but he delivered some spectacular blows, I couldn't have done better. This is going to be very good for him."
DREAMS COME TRUE FOR CARLOTA 🏆🇪🇺
Carlota Ciganda retains @TheSolheimCup in Spain 🇪🇸 #TeamEurope | #SolheimCup pic.twitter.com/nqb0dGqW0p
— Ladies European Tour (@LETgolf) September 24, 2023
Carlota thus completed the circle after being champion of Spain in all training categories, from benjamines to the absolute, a curriculum that includes six victories in the European tour, two in the American, in 2016, waiting for the top in a major. "It's what I'm missing," conjures Ciganda, today 28th in the world and the only Spaniard among the top 100 in the ranking; "I feel prepared and with the game that is needed. I must trust myself to take that step." So far she has collected 10 spots in the top 10 of a major, including four third-place finishes, the last one this year at the Women's PGA Championship (at Evian she was disqualified for purposely signing her card incorrectly because she disagreed with a penalty for slow play).
The success of this Solheim now reinforces his conviction that that step is close to being climbed. It would be the culmination of a path that in her professional debut in 2012, after being forged at the University of Arizona, led her to conquer the Order of Merit as the best player of the year and that in 2019 made her the first Spanish in history in the world top ten. "What defines her best is how professional and competitive she is when she plays golf. Although he has a lot of experience, one of his greatest virtues is that he wants to evolve and improve every day. It is very easy to settle in, to 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 his game", explains his caddie, Álvaro Alonso, in his second year working with the Navarrese. "Charlotte is already a legend after this Solheim. But he will keep working to be better and achieve more things," he adds.
Carlota Ciganda and Pau Gasol, at Finca Cortesín.A.Carrasco Ragel (EFE)
Heir to the spirit that Seve Ballesteros inoculated in Europe, Ciganda was the best glue in the locker room when other figures sharpened their egos. The Spaniard was 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, never being below on the scoreboard and reaching the 18th hole once. Theirs is the cry of "Come on, girls!" that animates the team. Nobody like her to symbolize the passion for a tournament in which the players do not charge a single euro. It is paid with glory.
All Solheim Cup 2023 results.
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