Saturday, 11 August 2012
Henrik Bjørnstad (Golferen.no) ()
Henrik Bjørnstad (Golferen.no) ()
Henrik Bjørnstad is regarded as the greatest golfer to emerge from his native country, yet he still took the decision to retire at the age of 31. It is one of many twists in the Norwegian’s interesting life story.

The Olso native was regarded as a precocious talent from an early age and won the Norwegian Amateur Championship at the age of 17 before turning professional a year later.

In a country which has never produced a real household name in world golf, Bjørnstad became a national idol in golfing circles despite never earning a win on the major circuits, his best rankings finish on The European Tour coming in 2002 (61st) after a finishing runner-up to José Maria Olazábal at the Hong Kong Open that year.

He can also say he was leading Tiger Woods at one point in his career, at the Buick Invitational on the US PGA Tour in 2006 before the American went on to win. That 10th place finish came soon after Bjørnstad had taken a rather bizarre career break back home – to work alongside his friend as a carpenter.

He explains: “I was playing on The European Tour in 2004 and I quit after the French Open. I had had enough of it and I needed a big break to be honest. I just felt empty, I wasn’t enjoying it and I didn’t want to travel and play tournaments so I decided to do something else.

“I thought it was going to be forever but it turned out to be a 10 month break. I had a friend with a carpentry business and I worked there for 10 months and it was a lot of fun.

“It gave me perspective. I hadn’t done anything else other than golf since I was 15. That’s all I did, I quit school and lived the ‘professional life’ since then, and I was really curious about the other side of life - having a normal job and the social life.

“It gave me perspective that being a professional golfer is a really good life. We’re so fortunate to manage our own time and travel the world. It’s great.”

After returning to the game in 2006 and competing on the US PGA Tour, Bjørnstad made the decision to retire for good in 2010.

“I felt like I had reached my limits,” he admitted, “I felt like I struggled in the last couple of years to improve and my last year on the PGA Tour, I felt I didn’t have that level in me any more so I felt it was time to move back to Norway.

“If I could do it all over again I probably would have given myself a bit more time at a young age and taken everything a bit slower but I think it’s easier when you step away from it to appreciate everything you’ve been through, all the places I've been, people I've met and results that I had.

“Sure, I still look back on many of the moments of my career with a smile.”

Now, the 33 year old is putting his experience to good use with the Norwegian Golf Federation, as a Junior Team coach and is known as an excellent motivator for the younger generation of Norwegian golfers.

“Hopefully some of my experience can help younger players to improve and I can help them avoid the kind of potholes that I went through,” he said.

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