No one could remember seeing her cry. Even during the down
times, Denmark’s Emily Kristine Pedersen has always shown a steely
determination, an unrelenting approach to battle. She never gives away too much
away.

But something changed after her third win in as many starts.
– something that she has been harbouring for years, something that she needed
to achieve to persevere and become a true champion. The recently crowned Race
to Costa del Sol champion has looked unstoppable all year, winning no less than
five times in 2020 from 12 events and recording more than double the number of
eagles of her nearest challenger.

Golf looks incredibly easy when you are playing well and full of confidence, but it has been a long and winding road for the 24-year-old. A road that was once smooth and running freely but has since narrowed and threatened to run off course, and almost led to her leaving the sport, for good. A road which brought us to Pedersen’s tearful winning interview, which caught almost everyone off guard.

The realisation of what she had accomplished swept over her like
a waterfall and, if she did not believe her credentials after a clean sweep of
titles in Saudi Arabia the week previous, she knew for certain now that she is
in the best place she has ever been.

To make things even sweeter, she had her Dad alongside to
share it.

By her side, her father Jesper, who is former footballer for
Naestved IF and currently the manager of FA 2000, was in pole position to watch
his daughter demolish the field by four shots and claim her third LET title in
a row – becoming the first player to achieve that three-feat since 1989.

“He got me in to golf and he has been a big supporter the
whole way,”
added Pedersen. “He kept me going when I was down and I was
really happy to go through something really positive and good with him because
he is right beside me off the course and, now, he has been there on it.”

Like so many before her, Pedersen was a golfing prodigy.
Starting the game aged ten, Pedersen flew through the Danish junior ranks and
made the national team by age 12 before enjoying a glittering amateur career.
She won both the European Ladies Amateur Championship and the prestigious
British Ladies Amateur Championship.

Turning professional in 2014 (age 18) after a 4th
place finish at LET Q-School, Pedersen immediately turned heads. A big hitter,
she had a brace of runner-up finishes followed by her maiden victory at the 2015
Hero Women’s Indian Open. That earned her the LET ‘Rookie of the Year’ title.

Trending in the right direction, Pedersen looked at ease
with professional life, which led to her being selected by Annika Sorenstam to
represent Team Europe at the 2017 Solheim Cup.

“I only started to think about the Solheim Cup a month
before because Annika started getting in touch with me, I didn’t think I was ready
but then all of a sudden, it was an option. I was excited and couldn’t wait.”

Going down in each of her three matches, including a Sunday
singles loss to Danielle Kang, Pedersen and Team Europe went on to be defeated
by 16.5 – 11.5 points.

At that moment, the roadblock emerged. And the fiery Dane
left Des Moines Golf & Country Club, Iowa a different person.

“I think maybe I wasn’t ready; I was upset, and it
knocked me. I didn’t perform my best but then the fact that people were criticising
that I was a pick, meant that I put all my energy in to proving to myself, and
to others, that I was good enough to be on the team.”

“Before that week, and every week since I was 14 years
old, I only thought about the round ahead of me and developing as a golfer, but
my focus changed,” Pedersen said. “I listened too much to the crowd.”

With her confidence at an all-time low, Pedersen searched
for answers and went on to make only six cuts in 20 starts on the LPGA the
following year and returned to the LET in 2019, having finished in 127th
place on the Race to CME.

Another year of struggles saw her make only one cut from
seven starts on the LPGA and eight cuts from 12 starts on the LET to finish in
55th place on the Order of Merit – dropping to a lowly 511 on the
Rolex Rankings at the turn of the 2020.

“I needed to mature and see the difference between Emily
the golfer and Emily the person,” she said. “I worked hard with a phycologist
to make that clear. When I played badly, I thought I wasn’t a good human being
and I doubted I’d ever be back.”

COVID-19 has affected professionals from all walks of life.
But the solitude of lockdown seemed to be a saviour for Emily. Time as home
gave her the chance to reflect, re-charge and resume as a new player when play restarted
in August.  

“I sat down with my coach in March and he said, ‘how are
we getting through this lockdown better than everyone else?’ And that motivated
me. If I hadn’t had my struggles, I don’t think I would have learned.”

Leaning on her support team to find that belief, each of her
victories this year have been special for unique reasons and each trophy has been
lifted alongside a different member of her support network (ranging from her
coach to So Yeon Ryu’s regular caddie, Mikey Patterson, to her Dad).

Despite the differences all have played a part in laying the
foundations for a meteoric rise up the Rolex Rankings to a career-high of 69.

The first, at the Tipsort Czech Ladies Open, was the one she
did not know if she would ever feel again, the one she where she learned the most,
coming back from nearly throwing away a six-shot final round lead to birdie the
17th and eagle the 18th to run out a four-shot winner.

The second, third and fourth, came in Saudi Arabia, at what
is fast becoming known as the ‘Saudi Sweep’. Two triumphant weeks in the
Kingdom confirmed the promise that she had shown, the promise that she could
cut it with the best and deserved her place amongst the elite – fighting off a
world-class field and overcoming major champion Georgia Hall in a play-off.
Then Pedersen captained her team to victory in the new innovative team
tournament.

Which leads us to her most recent title, at the Andalucia
Costa del Sol Open De Espana.

The one she could enjoy, the one where she could let her
guard down. She could finally be 14 years old again and realise that golf is
about more than the glory.

It’s enough to bring tears to even the steeliest of eyes.  

Emily Kristine Pedersen heads to this weeks’ U.S. Women’s Open at Champions Golf Club, Houston, Texas for the second time in her career, following a T41 finish in 2018.

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