When the biggest-selling daily newspaper in Germany highlights golf on its front page, it is fairly evident that a seismic change has occurred in the nation which once struggled to recognise the feats of Bernhard Langer.
It happened this week following Martin Kaymer’s breakthrough victory in the US PGA Championship at Whistling Straits. Bild newspaper devoted an unprecedented page one article to Kaymer, describing him in glowing terms as ‘our new sports superstar’.
Bild mentioned Kaymer in the same breath as tennis icons Boris Becker and Steffi Graf and Formula 1 legend Michael Schumacher. Suddenly, Kaymer’s name is emblazoned across the pages of the German media as the big-time beckons.
By coincidence this week, professional golf returns to Germany in the shape of the European Challenge Tour, which gave Kaymer his foothold in the pro game just four years ago when the German won twice in his first season.
Will the ECCO Tour Championship at Green Eagle Golf Club just south of Hamburg unearth another star-in-the making this week? Only time will tell, but one native of Hamburg hopes to see a spin-off over one of the longest courses in Europe.
Sven Strüver, who won three times on The European Tour between 1996 and 1998, watched Kaymer’s stunning success on the shores of Lake Michigan and recalled how two victories by his compatriot, Langer, inspired him as a young aspiring professional.
Struver, who is bidding to land the ECCO Tour Championship title on home turf, recalled: “In Bernhard’s day, there was barely a flicker of recognition in Germany, even though what he achieved twice at Augusta National was enormous in golfing terms.
“However, in those days, golf was such a minority sport that no-one paid much attention to his Masters victories. It is much improved now, as you could see from all the headlines and articles in the main German press this week.
“When Bernhard won the Masters, that was the only golf tournament you could watch in Germany at the time. Now, through satellite, you get more live coverage and even the tournaments which are not shown live will be available as highlights packages. Martin’s win is just what we needed in Germany right now. He comes across as a great role model and just the person to inspire young golfers in the same way that I was inspired by Bernhard.”
Strüver’s comments struck a chord with the current Challenge Tour Number One, Rob Dinwiddie of England, who also admired Kaymer’s calmness under pressure at Whistling Straits before heading to Germany for his latest bid to end the season in top spot on the Rankings.
“I remember as a youngster watching Nick Faldo winning Majors and wondering what it must be like to handle that pressure in the heat of battle. It was something that excited me and made me work harder than ever to try to emulate him.
“It’s great to see Europeans doing so well in the Majors and knowing that people like Martin and Louis Oosthuizen followed a similar path to the one we are taking at the moment on the Challenge Tour. Now it’s up to all of us on the Challenge Tour to get onto The European Tour and try to reach the next level.”