In this week’s Player Blog presented by Enterprise Rent-A-Car, Marcus Kinhult reflects on his breakthrough victory at last year’s Betfred British Masters
I got in to golf really early. We basically live on the golf course where my dad was the teaching professional, and from the age of six I started to play regularly.
I grew up on a small island on the West coast of Sweden where there are only ten kids in every year. I did enjoy playing team sports like football and ice hockey but because the island was so small, our teams weren’t that great and any time we went to play elsewhere we lost massively, so I think that was a big reason why I enjoyed individual sport more than team sport. I played a lot of table tennis, and still play a bit but from an early age I knew golf was always going to be the one sport for me.
It had been a goal of mine since I was probably seven years old to win on the European Tour, so my win at the Betfred British Masters last year was huge. I do still think about it quite often and I watch the highlights sometimes on YouTube. It still gives me a lot of excitement.
My confidence had been really low going into that week. After a pretty good 2018 season I’d had big expectations for 2019, but I struggled early that year and missed a lot of cuts. I remember I’d been at home practicing the week before and that didn’t go well either. It was tough, and it made me question myself.
The week before I went to Hillside I spoke with my family and I decided that I was going to split up with my caddie Adam, who was and still is my best friend. We played junior golf together from an early age, and after college and turning professional he came to caddie for me for almost two years. He has been a big part of my success. Having someone who could help me relax and have fun early in my professional career really helped me find my feet on the European Tour.
I began to feel that my poor performances were putting our friendship under pressure, and I didn’t want that. There are a lot of family members involved in my game. My dad is my swing coach and both he and my mum have been involved in basically everything to this point, and I think when you have a work relationship with family and your friends it can sometimes be very difficult to get the balance exactly right. I started experiencing that a bit, so the main reason I split with him was to keep the friendship going, hopefully for a lifetime.
I decided that the British Masters was going to be our last tournament together, and it was really hard to tell him. I felt like that was the hardest part of the week for me, but it felt necessary and more fair to him to do it on Tuesday before the tournament started. He was surprised and wasn’t expecting it, but he handled that really well and he clearly did a great job that week. For me it was big too. Even coming down the stretch against Matt Wallace and some other great players almost felt easy in comparison to telling Adam earlier in the week. It’s different, but I felt that if I could do that, I could pull off some golf shots under pressure.
Having made the decision to split, having him on the bag that week made winning even more special. I had been in contention before, and those few times didn’t go well, so I had a lot of doubt. I wasn’t sure if I was ever going to win, and it was nice to be able to finally pull it off.
I don’t remember what we talked about but throughout the week we had good conversations, laughing about the fact it was the last week. He has a good sense of humour and we’d joked that we’d stay together if I won by 18 shots. I think he was also feeling the nerves because we’d been in that situation before. I think we both realised there was no point trying to force anything. Sometimes that’s the hardest thing under pressure because when you want it so badly, you do unnecessary stuff. It worked out for us, and it was a lot of fun to share it with him.
It felt good to have that ending, and while the thought did cross my mind that maybe Adam should stay I decided to stick to my decision and I’m glad I did that. He’s actually back playing professionally now, and he beat me in the Nordic League event I played in a few weeks ago.
Compared to the other times I’ve been in contention, I think what I did better was that I didn’t try to force anything. I usually try to birdie every hole, and my mindset was still the same even after I bogeyed 15 and 16. Matt missed that short putt on 17, but that was something I couldn’t control, and I didn’t let it affect me, I just focused on what I was doing.
On Sunday tee times were earlier because of the football, and I think that helped too, because you normally have hours to kill before lunch when you’re playing in a final group. We had a lot of jokes that morning and listened to some Swedish rap songs.
But honestly, I wasn’t expecting to win that week. After playing poorly for a while I was happy just to be in that situation, I was just trying to play well.
I remember even on Thursday night after a good first round I was like this is good, if I don’t screw up tomorrow I’ll make the cut. That was my mentality playing Friday and I played well again, and then I had a good Saturday and all of a sudden I was in the lead. It didn’t get to me. I knew I was in contention and had a chance coming down the last few holes, but I was just happy to be in the top ten this week, thinking I was playing good golf I could build on. There were so many scenarios and so many players in contention it was actually easier to be in the moment playing the last four or five holes, and we had a chance on the last green and took it.
The entire week was fun. We stayed together with my manager David in an AirBnB that we shared with a landlady, which is something we’d never done before, but she was very nice. She had never really been to a golf tournament before and she came out and watched both days at the weekend. She even stayed in the parking lot outside the course an hour after the prize giving to congratulate us and say goodbye.
It changed a lot for me. I was well outside the top 110 on the Race to Dubai and it moved me inside the top 20, which got me in to a few tournaments, but the biggest thing was that it took some pressure off my shoulders. There were the expectations I had of myself, but I have also felt that people back in Sweden have expected me to win, and I felt until I won I hadn’t proved them right. It felt good to get rid of that pressure, and get my first win out of the way.
I’m excited to get started again after four months and get back into competitive golf. We’ve been able to play and practice the whole time in Sweden because we didn’t have lockdown, but it was hard to get really motivated for the first couple of months because there was still no start date to work towards. I used that time to do gym work, see family, which has been nice and I’ve practiced a lot.
It was a bit easier after we knew that we were going to start in July. Since then I’ve played a few local tournaments and I actually played a tournament on the Nordic League a couple of weeks ago to try to get going again.
My game feels alright but I feel like it’s been a while, and I’m looking forward to feeling pressure again. I’ve missed that.