Tuesday, 03 June 2014
Joel Sjöholm cooks up a storm after the D+D Real Czech Challenge (Stuart Franklin)
Joel Sjöholm cooks up a storm after the D+D Real Czech Challenge (Stuart Franklin)
In the second of our player blogs for the 2014 season, Joel Sjöholm opens up about what went wrong in 2013, how he dreams of becoming a winner on the Challenge Tour and the rise in quality since he graduated from the second tier in 2010.

I thought I could cheat the system

Since I lost my European Tour card my practise has been really good. I realised last year that I was probably focussing on the wrong stuff. I had a physical coach, a mental coach, a swing coach, a nutritionist… I had six or seven different coaches. I don’t know how to say it, but I think I'm almost too dumb to have all of these people around me.

For me, golf is supposed to be a simple game. I was hoping that I could use these people to take the next step instead of being between 110 and 60 in The Race to Dubai. I so desperately wanted to be inside the top 60 last year that I thought maybe I could cheat the system a little bit and get more coaches to help me get to where I wanted to be.

It didn’t work out at all. There was too much input. If you sit around a table and you all have one goal, suddenly you have seven different opinions. Sometimes you have five of them thinking the same thing but there will always be one or two of them with completely different ideas.

It was difficult for me because I listen too much to people, I'm a people person. So I decided I'm only going to stick with my mental coach and swing coach, the latter of which I changed last season to Victor Gustafsson. The swing coach I had for the last 20 years, Mikael Kinhult, couldn’t come out and see me much anymore. I really like working on things when I'm out playing golf and six weeks in a row is a lot for coaches.

I have to trust the people I work with and it’s unfortunate things didn’t work out last year, but I'm happy now, even though I haven’t produced the results as yet. It’s a slow process to get back I think. I realised in the middle of last year that either I was going to keep falling or something had to happen. Not keeping my card was just proof that I didn’t have a good season, but I definitely tried my best last year.

Maybe I took a little too much for granted. Maybe I was thinking all these people would do the work for me. You can hire 500 people but you still have to put in all the hours yourself. It’s a very simple equation.

I want to be a winner

I'm hoping this season will ground me a little bit. People think I was lying when I said I was looking forward to the Challenge Tour season but I didn’t feel like I belonged on The European Tour with where my game was. It felt like the only reason I belonged there was because I was ‘one of the boys’ out on tour, but I want to be one of the boys on the course, not hanging around and being a funny guy.

This has been my life since I was eight years old. Of course it hurts to drop back, but then again I really want to be able to win tournaments and I haven’t been able to do that yet on The European Tour. I was in third or fourth place a couple of times and in my opinion they were quite lucky really. 

It didn’t feel like I had played really well from start to finish or had a chance to win, a couple of guys just kind of blew up at the end and I was already in the clubhouse. My big dream is to walk down the 18th and have a lead, just to have that feeling. I still haven’t won as a professional so if I have to take a step back and try to win on the Challenge Tour, that’s fine. 

This is probably the toughest year I have ever had on the Challenge Tour in terms of quality. There are so many good players that you might say don’t belong on this tour. Every week on the Challenge Tour there are at least 50 guys who could go and play in a regular European Tour event. I think most of the guys have realised that one or two tournaments more on The European Tour is going to help them in terms of their season.

A new chapter

My next chapter has only just started. I was really looking forward to the dual-ranking events, the NH Collection and Madeira, because if you do well in those then you’re almost sorted for the season. But I had two awful weeks at those events, and now I have an even bigger hill to climb, but then again, I'm still alive and it’s only golf.

I'm not trying to talk it up because I'm not doing well, but these are the best players I've ever seen on this tour. You have winners from The European Tour and some guys who have played Ryder Cup. When I was here four years ago, it didn’t feel like the fields were this deep, so it’s going to be a very tough year on the Challenge Tour, but it’s a great challenge.

Sweden should have a Challenge Tour event

I got in a bit of trouble recently when I mentioned that we didn’t have a Challenge Tour event in Sweden, but I think, personally, it is crazy because we have so many players in international golf right now. What we want to do is be able to get in to the Challenge Tour to get the opportunities. Suddenly, you can help your up and coming players. I probably should not have said it publicly but that’s me. I always say what I think and if I get penalised for it, so be it. If I believe in something I want people to know it.

As much as I can, I would like to push for a Challenge Tour event. But if I put too much focus on that then I would lose my focus out here on tour. If I am still playing way down the line, my only hope would be to get more players from Sweden and give them the chances they deserve. If Ukrainian players, and players from countries with fewer golfers, can get chances on the Challenge Tour, and Sweden cannot, then there is something wrong.

It is always the issue of money, but the money you get from having big players coming out of Sweden year-in year-out, it helps the product of Swedish golf. Henrik Stenson played on the Challenge Tour, so many big guys played here, and it is a great school. 

People can say what they want, but the point is to strive to be at the best level you can until you reach The European Tour, and that’s why it is such a good school for young players. People might think it’s a glamourous life, but it isn’t. I'm really happy that we have some great courses and great hotels out here - it feels like we are treated like we want to be treated - but it is a tour that you should always want to be stepping forwards from, you don’t want to be here all of your career.

It’s going to be a tough, but fun, year.


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