If Morten Orum Madsen’s rapid rise through the ranks of professional golf is anything to go by, then the Silkeborg man is right on course to emulating his club mate and idol Thomas Björn.Certainly, the similarities between the careers of the two Danes are already striking. Although Madsen, who mounted a title challenge in the first event of his rookie European Tour campaign last week, gained an improved category for The 2013 Race to Dubai through earning the 19th card at Qualifying School Final Stage last month, both he and Björn are proud graduates of the Challenge Tour.
Madsen has already begun singing from the same hymn sheet to which Björn has referred throughout his career when extolling the priceless nature of gaining experience on European golf’s second tier.Björn won three times in the 1995 Challenge Tour season and topped the Rankings that year en route to the big time, but Madsen’s rise through the Challenge Tour was even quicker than his compatriot, taking just one year to reach the heady heights of The European Tour as opposed to Björn’s two.
Madsen’s successful start to his maiden season on The European Tour, finishing tied fourth at the season-opening Nelson Mandela Championship presented by ISPS Handa, is also relatable to Björn’s European Tour debut in 1996, when he finished in an impressive tied 14th spot in none other than the sunny climes of South Africa.
The determined, stocky and friendly-natured Madsen is sure to be subject to comparisons with his fellow Silkeborg native throughout his career, and it is certainly a fact with which he is extremely comfortable.“I wouldn’t say I know Thomas well,” said the 24 year old. “I have spoken to him several times and he was kind enough to play a practice round with me at The Open in the summer so I know him but not really well or anything.
“He has always been my idol though, being from the same club and all the success he has had on The European Tour, everything about how he approaches the game and how he works and how he prepares for tournaments. I've always been very inspired by him so I try and emulate some of those things and apply them to my game.”It has been a steep rise to the top for the former Danish Amateur Champion and one which has brought him no little joy but also plenty of disappointment, having been placed high in the leaderboard a handful of times during the 2012 Challenge Tour season before falling back at the weekends.
Those are crucial experiences which the philosophical Madsen believes will make him a much stronger player mentally as he faces the biggest challenge of his career this year – keeping hold of that coveted European Tour status.“Obviously I am extremely happy with what I have done in 2012,” he reflected. “I have had my ups and downs, some really good tournaments and some not so good ones, but it is all part of me learning to play on the Challenge Tour and The European Tour. The transition, not just from amateur but from the third level on the ECCO Tour, is huge.
“There is just so much talent on the Challenge Tour, everywhere you look. In third level events, in the best fields there are many 15 or 20 players with a chance to win but on the Challenge Tour it’s more like 100 players every week.“I had a few times where I put myself up high on the leaderboard, about three or four times, and then struggled coming in and I learned a lot about myself those weeks. When people from the outside tell me, ‘just take it one shot at a time and play your own ball’ - it’s cliché but it is how you have to go about it.
“It’s so hard not to get caught up in what other people are doing out on the course and where I am on the leaderboard or in the Rankings. You have to just hit your shot as good as you can, follow your ball, and go and do the same again for 18 holes and see where it puts you.“It sounds so easy when it comes out of someone’s mouth but it’s really hard to do. I've definitely learned that the hard way, to just focus on your own ball and your own state of mind.
“It was hard coming out on the Challenge Tour so I can’t imagine what it’s like going out on The European Tour. It’s going to take some time and it is a learning curve but it’s been a fun ride so far, that’s for sure.”
Now the next step for Madsen, as he follows in the footsteps of his childhood idol Björn, is to replicate his elder statesman’s feat of winning in his rookie season on The European Tour, Björn having captured the first of his 13 European Tour titles in the 1996 Loch Lomond World Invitational.If he continues how he has started, you certainly would not bet against it.