It’s a different kind of pressure, being the defending champion. Just ask Marianne Skarpnord ahead of this week’s Geoff King Motors Australian Ladies Classic at Bonville Golf Resort.
The Australian-based Norwegian came from a shot behind Sweden’s Madelene Sagstrom in the final round last year in what developed into a thrilling Sunday shootout.
An eventual two-shot victory over Hannah Green and Spain’s Nuria Itturios was both well-earned and emotional, the memories flooding back for the 34-year-old when she arrived on the Coffs Coast this week.
“Just driving back in the gates here at Bonville, a lot of really good memories started to hit me,” Skarpnord said. “It’s a funny thing when you win a golf tournament. When it’s over, you’re happy, but you’re kind of empty.
“You’ve got nothing left because you’ve put it all into your play that day. You go out and celebrate, but you can’t really feel anything that night, not properly.
“By the time you get back to your room, you’re just exhausted. Well, that’s what it’s been like for me every time I’ve won, anyway.”
Skarpnord is no stranger to winning golf tournaments with four Ladies European Tour victories on her resume.
But she knows only too well the vagaries of the game and says last year’s win was a classic example.
“I was playing with Madelene (Sagstrom) and Hannah (Green) on the Sunday, and you just expect that they will play perfect because they’re both such good players,” she said. “But I realised pretty early that neither of them was playing their best and as the round went on I thought I might be a chance.”
RIGHT: Hannah Green was in the final group alongside Skarpnord in 2019, the Aussie based Norweigan taking the chocolates. PHOTO: Mark Brake/Getty Images.
“Then I hit a terrible putt on the 15th hole, left it about three metres short. It was just terrible.
“Then I made the putt for par, and that’s when I thought maybe it might be my day.”
Skarpnord says she has spoken with her sports psychologist about preparing for the week and the extra demands on her time as defending champion.
“You don’t have to play perfect to contend or win." – Marianne Skarpnord.
“He said you just have to ignore it,” she says. “And he’s right.
“Golf is never about what you did last week or last month and certainly not last year. It’s a whole new tournament week, and I have to prepare as I normally would.”
Less than happy with her game recently, Skarpnord knows that is of little importance.
“You don’t have to play perfect to contend or win,” she says. “In fact, you never do play perfect. If you did, you would hole your second shot every time.
“It’s just a matter of making sure to remember that when you hit a bad shot, it’s not the end, there is always time for good shots. And that’s what I’ll be trying to do this week.”
Skarpnord will get her tournament underway off the ninth tee at 8.20 am on Thursday alongside amateur Doey Choi and Western Australia’s Whitney Hillier.