Next month Maïtena Alsuguren, the Deputy National Technical Director of French Golf, will captain Europe in the Junior Ryder Cup – which will be played from September 24-25 at Disneyland Paris®.
After a series of significant amateur events, we caught up with Maïtena about who she has been impressed by, her feelings ahead of the event and how excited she is to be visiting Disneyland Paris®.
A Junior Ryder Cup Captain, it's a very unique job…
I do not know if it's unique in the sense that, among amateurs, there are teams that are formed every year in Europe: there is a European team that plays against the United Kingdom, a European team that plays against Asia ... but they are not mixed and that's why the Junior Ryder Cup is unique. The Ryder Cup spirit also brings out the best in the team, plus the fact that it takes place in Paris this year will be special for all the Europeans.
Does the fact that it is played in France also bring you additional pressure?
No additional pressure for me, no. There is always a form of pressure to do the job well, and to ensure that the dynamics within the team are good. What is different is that there will be a French audience who will have their eyes on both events. In my first experience, two years ago, the competition was closed to the public. This year it will be open, so it will bring, potentially, additional pressure.
Compared to 2016, have you changed things in the way you exercise your captaincy?
For the moment, it's too premature for me to say. Of course, there are things I'm going to do differently. When we live an experience for the first time, even if we have plenty of help, we discover things. This time, for example, I will go very early to the course, so I can take my time and go around so that I am really familiar with the layout. And then we will need to adapt further as it will be a team of players who are still getting to know one another. They will arrive on the Thursday or Friday, they will go and see the course, and then they play the game. So, the Captain's action is to make sure they all settle in quickly and hit the ground running.
From the post you occupy, how do you rate the state of form of the world's top amateur golfers?
I think the amateur game is very strong, because the players at the top are now excelling in the professional ranks. We can mention Jon Rahm, who was only a short time ago in the World Amateur Golf Ranking, and we have seen how he has developed. There is a fairly close correlation between their amateur ranking and their performance when they turn pro.
For the Europeans in particular, who has impressed you?
There are a lot of good Europeans. The Hojgaard brothers, from Denmark, are particularly at the forefront, and both were in the top ten of the individual European Championship, one week before the Team Championship. After, there is still a rather complicated selection network. There are players who, apart from the European Championships and the British Boys and Girls, do not all have the same schedule – whereas a lot of the young American players compete in the same events. You have to compare performances in comparable situations, look at the World Amateur Golf Ranking, the tournaments where they play together, with the winners of the British Boys and Girls automatically qualified ... it's a tough exercise, it's interesting.
So European supporters can be optimistic?
Yes – we can be optimistic. We must also be wary of the level of US players, but with this format, a combination of match play and with doubles, anything is possible.
How important is the fact that this Junior Ryder Cup is being played at Disneyland Paris®?
It is a superb way of showcasing the event, and for the young people who hadn’t not heard about the Junior Ryder Cup they will be able to discover it through Disney. There are future champions in these teams, and this is an opportunity to go and observe them in a privileged way – much easier seeing them play now than when they play in The Ryder Cup!
What does the course itself require from players?
It is a parkland course, which is a bit American in style, and has large bunkers and well-designed greens. There are flag locations behind bunkers, which will require very good control from the fairways.
If you were to be a Disney character, who would you be?
Dumbo. Those who know me will smile.
What is your favorite attraction at Disneyland Paris®?
Space Mountain. Speed, thrills and a little mystery: very good!
If you had to create an attraction at Disneyland Paris®, what would it be?
A giant golf ride, or something like that.
With which Disney character would you like to share a round of golf?
I remember seeing a very funny cartoon with Goofy, when he is attempting to putt – so let’s say Goofy!