Spaniard Azahara Munoz is a two-time Solheim Cup champion and match play wiz. Her one victory on the LPGA Tour, the 2012 Sybase Match Play Championship, vaulted her into the top 20 in the world. The Arizona State alum led her team to the 2009 NCAA team title, and she handily won the 2010 LPGA Rookie of the Year honors after a stellar first year on tour. After being sidelined with a surgery to remove a tumor from her hand in 2015, Munoz came back firing this year, including a T21 finish at the Olympic Games in Rio. [Editor’s note: This interview was conducted prior to the 2016 Olympic Games.]
You suffered a pretty significant injury last year. How did that affect your morale in 2015?
It was a hard year. I played four events before my surgery. I was playing really well, then my injury happened and I was out for six to seven weeks. It was tough getting back out there because it was really painful and I couldn’t really practice. Now looking back, I came back too early. I probably should’ve taken a bit more time off and let it heal properly. It wasn’t the season I was hoping for but it was still a pretty good season.
Despite that, do you have a favorite moment from last year?
I guess Arkansas. Finally after surgery and not being able to play, and finally being in contention was pretty fun. I finished third but being up there in the last few holes was really fun, feeling the pressure again.
What were you most excited about for golf in the Rio 2016 Games?
Being an athlete growing up, I watched every other sport that’s in the Olympics. So finally being able to be a part of it was going to be really special. There’s nothing better than representing your country.
How do you expect the Olympics to affect the game of golf, specifically the women’s game?
The Olympics is going to be huge for women’s golf. It’s going to put us on the map. People are going to finally start talking about us as athletes. I think it’s going to be huge and sponsors are going to be more interested, and we’ll get more tournaments. People are going to see us on TV. I think more people are going to play golf now.
Would you rather win a Solheim Cup, a major, or a gold medal?
I already have two Solheim Cup wins which were incredible, but I don’t know. Winning a major is so big, but winning a Gold medal for your country is just amazing. I’ll pick either or. Whatever comes I’ll be happy with.
What’s your take on how the LPGA has grown over the past few years?
The LPGA is doing a great job. We’re playing weekends now with network coverage. I think that’s really going to help. People who follow us really follow us. We just need a few more people who have never paid attention to us to start paying attention. Any man who plays golf can relate to us better than the guys. If they watch us a bit more, they can see their games are more similar to us.
If there’s one thing you could take away from being on the LPGA tour, what would it be?
I would have to take away the people I’ve met here. I’ve met my best friends here, I’ve met my husband here, the traveling around the world and the opportunities you have to meet people. Usually people in golf are pretty amazing, so I’m really thankful for that. It’s changed my life for the better.