|Weather for Stockholm|
Written by Gene Oberto
12 June 2013
While the Swedish golf community is celebrating the abundance of Swedish entries in this week's US Open, there's some unfortunate news about one of this sport's nice guys.
Joakim Haeggman, the veteran Swedish professional, has retired after a storied 24 year career on the Tour. As most of his game would reflect in the future, Haeggman earned his card by grinding through the qualifying Q School to earn his place. He did it again in 2008 and, finally, in 2010.
Joakim Haeggman will never lose the title of being the first Swede to represent Europe in the Ryder Cup. He accomplished this in 1993. That year was one of Joakim's finest years as he won the Peugeot Spanish Open by two strokes over Ernie Els and Nick Faldo. He was also on the winning Swedish team in the Dunhill Cup. Along with the Ryder Cup he played in two Dunhill Cups and four World Team Championships. In 1997, he won the Scandinavian Open in front of a delighted Swedish crowd.
Hockey seemed to be the only undoing when it came to his golf. In 1994, an ice hockey accident cost him two years of golf in his prime, recuperating from broken ribs and a dislocated shoulder. It cost him another chance to play in the Ryder Cup. In 2002, he lost half a season due to breaking his ankle, again from playing hockey.
In the last number of years, the fight to stave off approaching age and declining skills had few highlights. He won the Qatar Open and another participation in the Dunhill Cup were among his last European Tour events.
This past May, Joakim Haeggman played in the Nordea Masters at Bro Hof. He was eight over and missed the cut. On June 11, 2013, Haeggman announced that it was time for him to move on to other things than professional golf. "Now, I've put the golf clubs away, but it's fantastic to know what I am going to do in the future," Haeggman said in a press release.
His new job will be with Svensson AB, Läckeby, just north of his hometown, Kalmar. The three-time European Tour winner will working in sales and marketing of machines for the maintenance of golf courses.
"Part of my job will be to make connections and build relationships with the people who work on golf courses. I want to be involved in developing the Swedish golf courses. There is a great deal of knowledge among golf course caretakers and greenskeepers out there. I can bring some fresh ideas from a player's point of view," said Joakim.
I've met a few golf professionals, some of whom are on a first name basis. I have, however, never met one quite like Joakim Haeggman. He is a ball of positive energy and always seems to be looking forward. I was once paired with him in a scramble event at the Ekerum Resort on Öland, the island off Kalmar. Joakim is well known in Sweden, but especially so in the Kalmar area.
Somehow, obviously due to a mishandling of scorecards, I was paired in his group. We played at opposite ends of the spectrum that day, as Joakim played excellent golf in this relaxed format. I think he was putting for birdie on every hole.
I, unfortunately, did what I always do in those situations. I pressed to play well and ended up doing just the opposite. I was steaming. I noticed as we played along, the others in the group had closed off a perimeter around me, and talked at a distance.
Joakim, on the other hand, played with an exuberance that went far beyond playing in a scramble with a few amateurs and a grumpy hack. Joakim Haeggman loves to play golf, anyway and anywhere. He would drop a putt to score in our scramble and would celebrate like just won The Open. All while being friendly and sociable for all the picture taking, sponsor glad-handing and playing with stumbling amateurs like me.
He is also a great story teller and had a group of hard nosed business men who ran golf and tennis clubs around the world, mesmerized with his tales. He's smart, articulate, funny, alternately self-deprecating and proud of his success.
I don't know how Swedish golf will handle the legacy of Joakim Haeggman. It's been my experience that it usually will be with an out-of-sight-out-of-mind kind of remembrance.
For me, however, I will remember the sky high approach shots that landed on the greens like butterflies with sore feet. I'll remember the always (seemingly) smiling face and the guy who could always make a few minutes to give a fan the opportunity to say hello with platitudes he has heard for all his career.
Now, he goes out on top, not because he has won, he's on top because it was his call at his time. The time time to stop was right now and, so, he did.
"The recent battles have been hard and yet my castle,
Once far away is now on the horizon.
I can see it's lights blazing in warm welcome and
Within it's walls are peace, my mate, and much joy."
- The Warrior by JC/99
Written by Gene Oberto
10 June 2013
We'll get to golf in just a minute, but I want to take a few sentences to acknowledge one of the finest athletes it has ever been my pleasure to see.
June 10, 2013 is the 40th Anniversary of Secretariet winning the Tiple Crown by blistering the field by 31 lengths in 2:24, winning the Crown and breaking the track record by 2½ seconds. Oh, by the way, he set race records in the other two events in the Series – the Kentucky Derby (1:59 2/5) and the Preakness Stakes (1:53). All three records still stand today.
You may wonder why I speak so highly of a horse, even with him being a throughbred. I'm not the only one. In 2005, he appeared in ESPN Classic's show "Who's No. 1?". In the list of "Greatest Sports Performances" (by individual athletes), the horse was the only nonhuman on the list, with his run at Belmont ranking second behind Wilt Chamberlain's 100-point game. On May 2, 2007, Secretariat was inducted into the Kentucky Athletic Hall of Fame, marking the first time an animal received this honor.
Do yourself a favor and go to YouTube and watch this amazing athlete do his work.
OK, now to golf. This week is the US Open on Merion, outside of Philadelphia. Some things to look for this week, in what has become the most gruelling of the four majors.
- This will be the first return to Marion in 32 years and the first major in three decades where flags will not be used. The pins at Marion are adorned with wicker baskets.
- Marion will be the shortest course for a major in nine years.
- If Merion is overrun and the winning score is 15 under par, it may later be seen as the tipping point in the movement to inhibit how far the golf ball is allowed to travel. But if Merion digs in its heels and high scores demonstrate that an historic architectural marvel of less than 7,000 yards is not outdated, then the distance issue may lose some of its steam, at least in the immediate future.
- Only 11 players in the field have ever played a competitive round at Marion.
- Remember, Adam Scott has a shot at the Grand Slam.
- Marion is the home of Ben Hogan's famous 1 iron (or was it a two?) in 1951 to win the Open. This year we will have to ponder the lost art of the long iron in professional golf.
- Long putters have won 4 of the past 6 majors.
- Can Webb Simpson repeat?
- There are eight Swedes in the field: Hanson, Hedblom, Jacobson, Karlberg, Karlsson, Lingmerth, Pettersson and Stenson. (This is an update from the previous release. Thanks to the readers who have set me straight.)
- Oh, and Woods hasn't won a major in five years.
Written by Gene Oberto
05 June 2013
The 2013 Nordea Masters was a nice mix of something old, something new, somthing borrowed, something blue (och guld). It was one of the Masters in recent history. While the outcome wasn't exactly what the fans wanted, with Swedes in position to win, its hard not to admire the work used by Mikko Ilonen to win.
Something old were the familiar faces that helped the fans to identify with the event. Players like Miquel Angel Jimenez, Jose Maria Olazabal and Darren Clarke, along with some others, gave the event something for the fans to identify with. Jimenez and Olazabel had very good tournaments, with Orazabel getting a hole in one.
Something new were the kids, namely, Sweden's Jonas Blixt, Henrik Norlander and the Italian, Matteo Manssero. Manassero was the in the lead for the first two days, starting off the first day with six straight birdies and ended the weekend at minus 16. Blixt was second at minus 18 and Norlander started with a first round score of 73, then went 67 to just make the cut line and finished 67-68 to end at minus 14.
Something borrowed is hole #17. The par three island hole, is similar to the hole in Ponte Verda, where the Player's Championhip is held. This weekend, the play on 17 was rather docile. Seventeen at Bro Hof is not so tough in good weather, however, when the wind blows, it becomes a "no guts-no glory" hole.
Something blue och guld was Jonas Blixt, dressed head to toe in his Swedish colors. Also, the arrival of the Crown Prince, Daniel to present the winner's trophy and offer congratulations. Did you know he travels with a small horn combo?
Some other things were discovered at the Nordea Masters. First, the Bro Hof maintenance staff deserves a lot of recognition for the job they did to get the course in such great shape in the little time they had from snow melt to the tournament. You saw it on the TV, with only a few spots near greens were still soft or not recovered yet. Winner Mikko Ilonen said the greens were ideal to putt on and, on the fairways, you always had a perfect lie. Since its arrival at Bro Hof, the European Tour says that Bro Hof is the best maintained course on the tour.
Speaking of Bro Hof, Björn Öräs bought an 80% majority share of the Nordea Masters to prepare for, hopefully, landing the 2018 Ryder Cup to Bro Hof. It never came to bear. Over the weekend, it was announced that Öras would now be the sole owner of the Nordea Masters. He picked up the 20% from its passive possessor, the Swedish Golf Federation.
Öras, now with 100% ownership can do what he wants with the event. My first thought will be rotating to different courses that could hold the event, golf courses like Barseback, PGA Sweden National and Vasatorp would be the likely candidates. Hills was mentioned, however,in MHO, the Hills design and infrastructure would not make it a good location for fans and players alike.By being the sole owner, Öräs can say to any clubs who may ask for a date, "How much do you want it? I'm going to put a number on this piece of paper, the amount I'll be looking for." Just like any other tournament does currently.
If the number doesn't fit, Öras can continue to run the event on his own golf course. He would be in no obligation to move at all. The rumor is that the moving option is because there is a feeling that they may have peaked the attendance probibility in Stockholm.
Another announcement made was that the spots offered to amateur golfers looks like they will be drastically cut back. The amateurs went a combined 67 strokes over par and the tournament says that is it not fair to cut professionals for that kind of showing by amateur players. With the SGF out of the picture, don't be surprised if that does happen.
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