Tournament hosts Henrik Stenson and Annika Sorenstam are hoping to inspire the next generation of golfing superstars as the European Tour and Ladies European Tour break new ground at the 2021 Scandinavian Mixed.
For the first time, a field of 78 men and 78 women are going head to head on the same course competing for one prize fund and one trophy at Vallda Golf and Country Club.
All the players share the same practice facilities and men and women have been drawn together for the tournament days, as well as playing practice rounds together.
Sorenstam and Stenson have both enjoyed incredible careers at the very top of the game, with Sorenstam claiming ten Major Championships, while Stenson has won the Open Championship and twice came out on top in the Race to Dubai.
And the superstar Swedish duo are now hoping the ground-breaking mixed event in their homeland can inspire boys and girls alike to follow in their footsteps.
On the course, the duo have very different goals this week, with Sorenstam having retired in 2008 and only recently started occasionally playing competitively again. Stenson, meanwhile, is looking to put some indifferent form by his high standards behind him and kickstart his mission to make a sixth Ryder Cup appearance.
The pair will tee off with fellow Scandinavian great Thomas Bjørn on days one and two, with the trio boasting 44 wins between them across the LET and European Tour. And the 2018 Ryder Cup Captain is looking forward to playing with golfing “royalty”.
He is joined in the field by fellow Danish star Emily Kristine Pedersen, who begins her 2021 LET season this week in Sweden having played at last week’s US Women’s Open where she finished tied 23rd.
Meanwhile, two time LET winner Meghan MacLaren is also relishing the chance to once again take on the men as she tees it up this week having already proved she can take on her male counterparts, having finished second at the Jordan Mixed Open – a 2019 European Challenge Tour event where the field included players from the Ladies European Tour and the Legends Tour.
Annika Sorenstam: “I retired 13 years ago so I don’t know why I’m really playing but it’s exciting to be here and I look forward to really being part of the event and not just walk outside the ropes and see it – now I can experience it with all of them. I’m thrilled. It’s going to be interesting but it’s also going to very memorable.
“I think it’s been received quite well, I think there’s an interest that’s sparked a little something new, something that we haven’t seen before and of course I think we’re all a little bit curious of what the outcome will be. The biggest challenge is the course and to make it fair for everybody.
“The feedback so far has been good. The goal would be that we would have equally as many men and women make the cut and on Sunday to have both genders in the final group.
“I’m trying to practise. I just worked with my coach the last few days, it’s been years, so there are some things where I feel like I’m going back to square one but it’s fun to be out here. My expectations are very different, the game is not at all where ot was when I was finishing up in 2008 but I’m in a different place in my life. I’m happily married and I’ve got two kids that are ten and 11 and I’ve got different ventures. Playing golf right now is just an added thing on my schedule. I don’t have as much time as I probably need to put into my game but it’s okay, I’m happy about that.”
Henrik Stenson: “It feels great to be in Sweden. To be partnering up with Annika and doing this event it’s a great feeling. She’s the greatest female player of all-time, certainly in my book and I think in pretty much everyone else’s too. It’s a great honour to do this event together with her and to do it in Sweden as well, I think it’s a very fitting place to do it.
“We’re going to have this event seen and heard about around the world. It’s a totally new concept and I’m pretty excited that we can do it in our sport. Equality is very far in Sweden but in many other parts of the world it’s not so I think they’re going tp hear about this event and maybe take some steps in the right direction.
“I’ve played a fair bit of golf with girls both over in America and here in Europe and we’re going to see within the girls line-up here you’re going to see some that are hitting it far and some that are hitting it a little bit shorter and are good on other aspects of the game. I think we’re going to see a very competitive bunch of girls coming out from the LET and being ready to take on the boys on the European Tour. Bring it on – let the games begin.”
Thomas Bjørn: “It’s been a long time coming in the way that is something we’ve chatted about for a long time. There was obviously one with the Ladies, the Challenge Tour and the Legends Tour but it’s been a long time coming.
“I think it’s something everyone wants to see happening and more often as well. Golf has an obligation to provide different kinds of formats and ideas and it’s one of those sports where we have the ability to make it fair.
“It’ll be something that fans will want more of, I think it’s something sponsors want more of and I think it fits the Tour, and the time – the time is right – and it’s certainly the right country. This country is very forward-thinking with women in sport.
“Swedish golf royalty doesn’t come much higher than those two (Henrik and Annika). Annika and I are a very similar age and growing up and watching her career up close through the years, dominating women’s golf, was remarkable and she’s women’s golf’s Jack Nicklaus or Tiger Woods or however you want to put it.
“Obviously people step away from the game playing-wise like Annika has and she is still involved in the game in many ways, and people tend to forget how good they were, but I followed Annika’s career very closely. And it’s pretty special at our age to go out and play competitive golf together and I’m looking forward to it.
“The other one, I’ve known Henrik for so long and we are just very close friends, and he’s still got hopes and aspirations of delivering great things and very capable of doing that so that’s a different case. I love watching him play, he’s arguably one of the best golfers in the world and we saw that over a few years when he delivered some unbelievable results.”
Emily Kristine Pedersen: “I’m feeling good. I’m glad to be in Scandinavia, the tournament is three hours from my house and it’s really nice. I got here yesterday after flying from San Francisco, but I’m really happy to be here.”
“It’s always fun to play against the boys. It’s good to be back doing it and it’s going to be exciting with how the course is set up. It’s great that women and men are playing together and it’s going to be really interesting to play in the same field. Hopefully, it will especially raise the women’s game a bit and I hope that it’s going to be a success and there’s going to be maybe a few more in the future.”
I think it’s awesome. Annika was my Solheim Cup captain in 2017, so it’s great to see that she’s out playing. I was really hoping I was going to be paired with her this week! It’s great to see her and Henrik doing this for golf. It’s growing both the LET and the European Tour and it’s good to have the stars there. Henrik is so cool, he’s the Iceman. I really hope that I play well and he’s going to play well so maybe I can play with him and get to learn from him at the weekend.”
Meghan MacLaren: “I have been really looking forward to it. I have been in the United States for quite a bit this year, but this is an event I always wanted to come back to. It’s cool to be getting started.
“I am very proud. It still hurts a little bit, it still cuts when people say it, but it was an unbelievable week and even the events I’ve won, I’ve never felt that much support throughout a single week. It was really quite overwhelming to be honest, but it will be a week that I remember forever. Just the three Tours together and what it did for women’s golf and golf as a whole. It was really special to be a part of that.”