Sweden’s Linn Grant and Maja Stark, two of the hottest players in golf, are already a foursomes juggernaut and primed for the Solheim stage

There’s a saying on the Swedish National Team: “It’s us against the world.” Even at individual events, the Swedes make a point to cheer each other on. That hasn’t changed since Linn Grant and Maja Stark both turned professional last August.

Since then, they’ve won a combined 14 times around the world, with Grant famously beating the men at the Volvo Car Scandinavian Mixed, and Stark winning last week at the ISPS Handa World Invitational to earn her LPGA card.

“If it’s not me,” said Grant, “she’s the No. 1 I want to see win.”

This week at the Ladies European Tour’s Aramco Team Series event in Spain, Grant met 2023 European Solheim Cup captain Suzann Pettersen for the first time. Stark and Grant have talked about playing together in a Solheim. Linn believes they’re actually undefeated in foursomes play, representing Sweden together on numerous occasions and winning the historic Sunningdale Foursomes in 2019.

“Maja said it would be quite silly not to put us together, actually,” said Grant, a former ASU standout who now ranks 56th in the world. Stark, who is not in this week’s event, rose to No. 45 in the Rolex Rankings after Sunday’s victory.

Nelly Korda at a press conference at the Aramco Team Series in Spain. (courtesy photo)

Nelly Korda and big sister Jessica headline the field at the La Reserva Club de Sotogrande, where the competition takes place August 18-20. The American stars made their debut on the Aramco Team Series last fall in New York, with Jessica’s team coming out on top in a playoff that finished under the lights.

The Aramco Team Series Sotogrande is one of six Saudi-backed events on the LET schedule. The events remain controversial given the wide-ranging human rights abuses Saudi Arabia has been accused of, especially toward women.

The first two days of the event feature 36 teams vying for a $500,000 purse. The final 18 holes will feature professionals only, with another $500,000 at stake. European Solheim Cup stars on hand this week include Spain’s Carlota Ciganda and Anna Nordqvist, who was recently announced as one of Pettersen’s vice captains along with Dame Laura Davies and Caroline Martens.

The Solheim Cup will be contested in Spain for the first time in 2023, and Grant and Stark are primed to give the Americans a good deal of grief.

The two Swedes, who are close in age and grew up in the same area of Sweden, weren’t always close. Quite the contrary, in fact.

“I know for sure that she didn’t like me at all prior to getting to know me,” said Grant with a laugh, “which is funny, looking back at it now.”

It wasn’t until they were forced to play on the same girls’ team and room together that the pair of opposites started to become friends in high school. They still don’t like many of the same things off the golf course (food, music, hobbies), but they’ve learned how to appreciate their differences and now choose to travel together, having recently spent the last four weeks together on the road.

Linn Grant of Sweden during the Pro-Am. Credit: Tristan Jones/LET

Last week at the ISPS event, the two friends were paired together in the third round and set a goal of trying to make a combined 16 birdies on the day.

“We said before the round, let’s really root for each other today,” said Stark, “more than usual, and do high fives when we make birdies and stuff.”

Heading into the week, Stark told her pal she wanted to celebrate something. That she hadn’t celebrated anything all summer. By week’s end, they were sipping champagne together, toasting the biggest day of Stark’s young career.

It was more than Grant experienced after beating a field that included 78 men by nine at the Scandinavian Mixed. She made the hour-long drive back home on Sunday and had pizza with the family before flying out with her brother the next day for an event in London.

Grant, who became the first woman to win on the DP World Tour, said her Instagram blew up so much after that victory that she had to turn off her phone to focus. A friend living in London got a kick out of walking down the street and seeing Grant’s face on a huge TV screen in the city.

“I think it just turned out to be such a big thing,” said Grant, “which has been really fun.”

Stark and Grant have similar games in terms of how they hit the ball, but they vary when it comes to how they choose shots.

“Maja is more of a daredevil,” said Grant, “she goes for one percent shot.”
Grant likes to play it safe and keep calm. When they’re partners, the two friends feed off of each other’s strengths but mostly just let the other person be.

Maja Stark of Sweden poses for a photograph with the trophy after winning the Women’s ISPS Handa World Invitational on Day Four of the ISPS Handa World Invitational presented by AVIV Clinics at Galgorm Castle and Massereene Golf Clubs on August 14, 2022, in Co Antrim, Northern Ireland. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)

Stark and Grant are Nos. 1-2 on the LET’s Race to Costa del Sol. Because Grant received LPGA status at last year’s Q-Series, she earned CME points in the four LPGA events she has competed in this season. She is currently 68th on the CME points list and is considering playing in the limited-field Asian events this fall as well.

The top-60 players on the CME points list qualify for the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship, where the winner receives a record $2 million prize.

Stark, who played two seasons at Oklahoma State, shot a course-record 10-under 63 on Sunday in Northern Ireland to win by five and immediately accepted LPGA membership.

“This changes everything,” said Stark. “I was going to go to Q-School, and that’s just impossible because Q-School would be the week after our final, the tour final, and now I don’t have to worry about that anymore, getting over to the U.S. super quick.

“So, yes, it’s just huge. I finally get to play where I want to be.”

Story originally appeared on GolfWeek