Meet Viktor Hovland, the Norwegian golfer who honed his golf skills by watching videos online before bursting on to the professional scene.
In just a few days, the 24-year-old Norwegian Viktor Hovland will walk out at Whistling Straits having qualified automatically for the European Ryder Cup team.
Many who don't follow golf will be surprised to see a Norwegian in such a high-profile tournament. But golf fans around the world have followed the Norwegian's remarkable rise over the last few years.
In his first year as a professional, Hovland picked up two PGA Tour wins in dramatic fashion. He made a 30-foot putt on the last hole to beat Josh Teater at the Puerto Rico Open, before putting to beat Aaron Wise in Mexico.
The victories were the first ever by a Norwegian on the PGA Tour. Hovland quickly went on to prove they were no flukes by becoming the first Norwegian to win on the European Tour the following year. Here's his story.
Read more: Sport in Norway
A fortunate introduction to golf
Hovland was born in Oslo in September 1997. As you might expect from someone born in Norway, his path into golf was somewhat fortunate.
His father, Harald, worked on an engineering project in St. Louis. During a year in the U.S. he bought a set of golf clubs to use on a practice range nearby his workplace.
Having enjoyed it, he returned to Norway with a set of junior clubs for then 11-year-old Viktor to try. The love affair began!
From the ages of 11 to 17, Hovland was coached by James McGowan, an Australian golf teacher at Drøbak Golf Club. In 2014, Hovland won the Norwegian Amateur Golf Championship.
He first came to the attention of the golf program at Oklahoma State while playing in the European Boys Team Championship in 2013. He went on to play college golf at Oklahoma State University in Stillwater.
While in the US, Hovland became the first Norwegian to win the U.S. Amateur with his 2018 victory. This earned him invites to major tournaments for the first time.
Honing his skills online
The young Hovland made the most of Norway's long summer days to work on his game. But in the winter, the darkness drove him online.
The explosion in online education has also made it into the golf world. Everything from grip-adjustment advice from former professionals to lectures from sports scientists are available online.
Hovland talked to Golf Digest about how he avoided information overload: “I started young getting into the golf swing, so I feel I have a pretty good understanding of what’s going on and how it relates to what I’m doing when I hit a ball.”
There’s the valuable stuff, and the stuff you hear and throw out, and then there’s the gray area in between, where you don’t really know. You try it out and see how it goes and leave yourself some breadcrumbs so that you can get back to where you were.”
Hovland's professional record
The Norwegian's transition to the professional game has been spectacular. He became the first ever Norwegian to win a PGA Tour event in just his first year as a pro, and followed that up with a second just nine months later.
That first victory came in February 2020, when Hovland won the Puerto Rico Open thanks to a 30-foot putt to secure a birdie on the final hole. “Hats off to Viktor, that's a great putt,” said his defeated opponent, Josh Teater.
In December 2020, Hovland picked up another PGA Tour win with another final hole birdie. He was the first player in the history of the Mayakoba Golf Classic to win with a final hole birdie.
Hovland also made a splash on the European Tour, winning the BMW International Open.
His early success as a professional was enough to make him an automatic qualifier for the European Ryder Cup team. Of course, the fact the 2020 event was delayed until 2021 was a major stroke of luck for the young Norwegian!
The prestigious tournament takes place at Whistling Straits, Kohler, WI, from 24-26 September.