2013 above par for golfing star

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Norway’s queen of golf, Suzann ‘Tutta’ Pettersen, capped off a stellar year with two major awards at the annual Sports Gala (Idrettsgallaen) over the weekend. Commentators have named her among the world’s sporting greats, and her star is set to keep rising as she chases the world number one women’s golf ranking.

Golf star Suzann Pettersen and chess prodigy Magnus Carlsen share the athletes' choice award. PHOTO: newsinenglish.no/NRK screen grab

Golf star Suzann Pettersen and chess prodigy Magnus Carlsen share the coveted athletes’ choice award at the annual Sports Gala. PHOTO: newsinenglish.no/NRK screen grab

An ecstatic Pettersen was named Norway’s Female Athlete of the Year, and shared the top sporting personalities’ peer-nominated “utøvernes pris” with chess genius Magnus Carlsen at the gala. She gave heartfelt thanks to her parents, the golf federation and her countrymen. “Most of all I want to thank the people,” she said in her Athlete of the Year acceptance speech. “I hope this encourages even more people to begin playing golf.”

The 32-year-old had a dominant season last year, quickly scaling the world rankings from sixth place to second, reported newspaper Dagsavisen. Pettersen won four LPGA tournaments taking her career total to 14, and the coveted Solheim Cup tournament between Europe and the US. She pocketed the most winnings and sponsorship of her career to date.

Growing interest
The national recognition puts paid to speculation that Pettersen was better known abroad than at home. Pettersen said she has heard the commentary, but is unfazed. “I am more concerned with helping to increase interest in golf, and that we get a greater breadth,” she said. “If my good results can help with that, it’s great.”

“On the world scale golf is a very big sport,” Pettersen explained. “In Norway it’s much more skiing and winter. I also become very engaged when the ski season begins, but I think it is difficult to rank your own sport against another.” She said hard work is the key to success in any sport, be it golf, cross country skiing or curling.

Pettersen also joined the likes of Carl Lewis, Michael Jordan, Serena Williams and Ronaldo last year when she was offered a lifetime contract with sportswear giant Nike. Pettersen had previously held two three-year contracts with Nike, worth more thank NOK 5 million (USD 800,000) plus bonuses, reported Dagsavisen.

Chasing number one
Despite her growing recognition in her home country, Pettersen has no plans to leave Florida, where she’s lived since 2004. “I’m away from all the hustle and bustle,” she explained to newspaper Aftenposten. “So I’m thriving here. Many golfers live here and I mostly hang out with them, so it’s ideal for me to live here.”

She said the occasional bout of homesickness is cured with a five day trip home. “Even though I see myself having a sort of base in Norway sometime in the future, and a life in Norway to a greater extent than now, I think I’m too hyperactive to live permanently in Norway.”

Pettersen said she’s keen to start a family one day, when her golf career is winding down. “So long as I feel I’m developing as a golfer and still haven’t reached my peak, it’s difficult to quit golf,” she said. “It’s a selfish life, too selfish to want children or family in it. But I’m looking forward to having children.”

For now, Pettersen has one clear goal: to become number one in the world rankings. “And now I have better conditions than before,” she told Dagsavisen. “I was stressed then, and thought to achieve that I had to do everything so much better, instead of trusting what I could. I am sure that my time is coming. I know the possibility to take the throne is there, if I play well from the beginning of 2014.”

newsinenglish.no/Emily Woodgate