LONDON (Reuters) - It may be a fanciful notion but Norwegian professional Caroline Martens is being driven this year by a powerful desire to play at the Olympics alongside her compatriot and close friend Suzann Pettersen.
With two women golfers per team going to Rio de Janeiro in August, the Scandinavians are likely to be represented by world number 13 Pettersen and the 119th-ranked Marianne Skarpnord as the sport returns to the Games for the first time in 112 years.
Tonje Daffinrud is the next highest-placed Norwegian in 379th spot followed by Martens at number 436.
“Suzann and Marianne are both really talented golfers but I’m going to try and get those ranking points I need to play at the Olympics,” Martens told Reuters in a telephone interview from Abu Dhabi.
“I love sport and I love what the Olympics stand for...there is such a uniqueness to it.
“To be part of something as great as the Olympics would be absolutely amazing, the pinnacle of any athlete’s career.
“I would do almost anything to get there,” said Martens who went to the Middle East for the Ladies European Tour’s announcement of the new Fatima Bint Mubarak Open to be held in Abu Dhabi from Nov. 2-5.
The 29-year-old has had to overcome her fair share of adversity in the last three years.
Martens dislocated both shoulders and struggled to walk after being diagnosed with an illness she prefers to keep to herself but that she describes as “potentially life or death”.
She also had to experience the death of her grandfather and a close friend in 2013 plus the sudden, unexpected ending of a long-term relationship with her boyfriend.
Martens proved she is made of stern stuff at the end of that year when she romped to an eight-stroke victory at the Ladies European Tour Qualifying School in Marrakech.
She is now dreaming of competing for an Olympic gold medal alongside the inspirational Pettersen.
“To be able to play in the same team as Suzann would be fantastic,” said Martens. “She’s such a great golfer, it would be an honor.
“We are good friends, we talk regularly and we are really close. She’s been a good role model for a lot of the girls out here on tour.”
Martens said she felt for her friend when Pettersen became embroiled in controversy at last year’s Solheim Cup, the women’s equivalent of the Ryder Cup.
Tempers at the biennial team event between Europe and the United States flared when she refused to concede a 16-inch putt to Alison Lee and the American picked her ball up on the 17th green.
That left the referee no option but to award the hole to Pettersen and her fourballs partner Charley Hull, leading to victory for the pair against Lee and Brittany Lincicome and accusations of a lack of sportsmanship by the Europeans.
“It was very difficult to see her go through what she went through,” said Martens. “You never want to see your friend suffer or go through a hard time.
“It was sad but she’s so strong, she’s very unique like that. That’s one of the reasons why she’s been so highly-ranked for so many years.
“Rules are rules...and she really didn’t do anything wrong. Sometimes in the heat of the moment you react differently to the times when you have some time to think about things,” added Martens.
“I think Suzann realizes there were quite a lot of things she might do differently today but she stands by every decision she made then.”
Editing by Greg Stutchbury