Andriy Shevchenko, speaking exclusively to europeantour.com, has revealed that one of the reasons he took up golf was for respite from the pressures of football, as the former European Footballer of the Year prepares to step into a whole new sporting arena at this week’s Kharkov Superior Cup.
As Ukraine prepares to host its first major professional golf event, the European Challenge Tour debut of home hero Shevchenko represents something of a PR coup for event organisers as his appearance attracts huge interest both nationally and internationally.
Much like on the field throughout his decorated football career, the 36 year old has been a marked man this week at the splendid Superior Golf and Spa Resort - by media, fans and even players trying to grab their photo opportunity with the former AC Milan and Chelsea star.
Shevchenko has been nothing but obliging for every request but he knows, come 12:40pm local time Thursday, when he tees off alongside two 2013 Challenge Tour winners – the USA’s Brinson Paolini and Frenchman Victor Riu – he will be at peace.
Indeed, this was the exact reason that the Kiev man took up the game in the first place.
“It’s quite different to football alright,” he said. “I actually started to play golf to escape from the pressure from football. I come on to a golf course and turn off my phone and just walk the course and hit some balls. It’s one of the reasons why I started to play.
“I just found this great game where you have to be focused and balanced in golf and that’s why I like it. I like that mental balance.
“In football it’s difficult to always keep that balance because it’s all-action and it’s all about movement, so much is happening every second. Players can get angry and get away with it but in golf it’s only between you, the ball and the target. It’s really nice.”
Shevchenko, who plays left-handed and off a handicap of two, is visibly excited about the prospects this week’s tournament brings for his country with regard to a game with which he is quite clearly in love.
His sole target is to make the cut for the weekend, which would be a marvellous achievement for someone who took up the game in his mid 20s.
“I love golf and I'm so happy that golf is starting to pick up in Ukraine and the people are starting to invest money long term,” he said. “Golf is something much more than just sport, it’s about attitude and so many other things put together, this is why I like it.”
Of his prospects this week, Shevchenko said: “The course is nice here and it’s quite difficult this week. I'm playing OK, I'm happy with my game so we will see. It’s the first event for me and also in Ukraine so it’s big for golf here. I'm just happy to be here, it’s great for us.”