Suzann Pettersen pens touching open letter to her infant son after shocking retirement
Suzann Pettersen sank the winning putt in dramatic fashion to close out her singles match and a come-from-behind victory for Europe at the 2019 Solheim Cup. Despite her time off, that was not all that surprising considering her sterling resume. What was surprising, though, was when one hour later she announced her retirement from professional golf.
If you had looked at her face as she clutched her infant son Herman after making the putt, you may have been less shocked.
On Thursday, Pettersen wrote a heartfelt open letter, directed to her son, explaining in full for the first time how his birth instantly transformed her life and influenced her decision to end her near 20-year professional golf career.
The lengthy letter posted on LPGA.com, which you can find here, is well worth a full read. But here are some of the many highlights.
The letter opens with Pettersen addressing Herman as her “precious gift” and letting him know that even though he may have been “too young to know what was happening” he was still present along with his father for “the final week of my full-time career as a professional golfer” at the Solheim Cup.
The primary message Pettersen tries to get across to her son is how monumentally he changed her life, which previously had been consumed by her golf career.
“My identity was linked to my job. How I played, how my practice sessions went on a particular day, how many putts I made or missed — all of that affected my moods, my priorities, my relationships and most of my decisions. I was, to some degree, selfish, which I considered a prerequisite for success,” she wrote. “I had no trouble saying ‘No’ and I did it quite a bit when I felt that someone or something was intruding on my time. That was part of the job. And my job, being one of the best golfers in the world, was my focus.”
But according to Pettersen, Herman changed all of that before he was even born.
“Even before you drew your first breath, you taught me an invaluable lesson about the things in life that really matter; about patience and perspective; about the extraordinary work ethic and monumental balancing act women around the world display; and about the sacrifices and selfless choices working mothers make every day.”
Pettersen and her husband, Christian, learned she was pregnant just before Christmas in 2017. At first, she planned on playing the 2018 LPGA season well into her pregnancy. But following some reality checks, in addition to complications with the pregnancy that left her stranded in Oslo and unable to fly, she decided to take the full season off on maternity leave.
She wrote, “once it became obvious that I was going to take at least a full year off, it was like a weight had been lifted off my chest.” It was that moment that she says she “realized what an insular bubble I’d been living in for 20 years.”
And the change was a positive and welcome one, at least once it sank in.
“This was a total break. And I was very comfortable. For the first time, my brain switched to normal,” Pettersen wrote.
It was when Herman was finally born in August 2018 that Pettersen’s life truly shifted, and when she began questioning whether she ever wanted to play pro golf again.
“Then you arrived and in an instant my brain switched again. I’ve always heard people say that becoming a parent changes you, but I had assumed that change took weeks, or maybe even months or years. That is wrong. It’s instantaneous. The moment you drew your first breath, I was a different person. Your father was there and as we held you, I asked myself, ‘Is there really any reason to go back to that other life?'”
But a few fellow players and friends, including Catriona Matthew, convinced Pettersen to try and prepare for the 2019 Solheim Cup. After nearly two years away from the Tour, Pettersen knew she’d need to work hard and pray for a captain’s pick to make the team.
So in the summer she got back out there, playing in a few LPGA events to get her game in shape, but all the while feeling wrong being away from her son and husband. At one point in a hotel in Portland, Ore., during the week of the Cambia Portland Classic, she found herself wondering, “What are you doing? All by yourself? Really? This means nothing if you can’t share it with them.”
But Pettersen stuck with the plan, and eventually was awarded with a captain’s pick to play for the European team in her ninth appearance at the biennial event. This time, though, her family were there to support her.
Then came the dramatic winning putt, the eruption of the European fans surrounding the hole, and her teammates charging onto the green to celebrate. In that moment, one Pettersen calls “a fairytale ending, one I couldn’t have imagined,” she knew that it was her time to retire.
“It took a minute for me to find you and your dad in the melee. But when I did, when I looked at you in your father’s arms, I said, ‘This is it. Nothing is ever going to top this.’ I’d had it all…I’m thrilled you were there. Even though you won’t remember it, having you present is something I will cherish forever. Combining the responsibilities of being a mom and a golfer … it was all I needed.”
Knowing she couldn’t top that experience, Pettersen took the leap she had considered for years, and she announced her retirement “on the spot.”
“I hope this story helps you understand our family,” Pettersen writes to Herman to close out her letter. “I hope it helps you appreciate the discipline and determination it takes to reach goals… That Sunday was the time for me to step away from golf and be a wife and mother. I hope you can find the peace in your decisions that I have found in mine.”
To receive GOLF’s all-new newsletters, subscribe for free here.