Suzann Pettersen, of Norway, practices for the women's golf event at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Friday, Aug. 12, 2016. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)
If anyone had told Suzann Pettersen she’d be an Olympian someday, she figured it would be wearing skis instead of golf cleats.
“If I never got this chance,” the two-time LPGA champion said after a practice session at the Olympic Golf Course, where the men’s tournament entered its second day, “I’d probably feel like something was missing.”
Growing up in skiing-mad Norway, Pettersen’s heroes were downhill racer Kjetil Andre Aamodt and cross-country specialist Johann Olav Koss, each of whom won four gold medals. She was a 12-year-old spectator and Alpine racer-in-training when the Winter Olympics were held in Lillehammer, Norway in 1994.
Even though golf wasn’t on the Olympic roster at the time, those games fired up her imagination. Since then, she’s had the chance to cross paths frequently with both of Norway’s ski legends.
“It’s a great thing to get a chance to meet your heroes and even better when that turns into friendships,” she said.
Having visited Rio de Janeiro twice before to play tournaments, Pettersen is treating this one strictly as a business trip; no sightseeing or other sporting contests nudged their way onto her itinerary.
“I’m focused on one thing only,” she said, and judging by the number of women taking advantage of a largely empty practice range and putting green, Pettersen is not alone.
No less than eight women she’ll face when the women’s tournament begins Wednesday were practicing alongside her.