Five-time European Tour winner Mikko Ilonen has decided to call time on his playing career after 18 years as a professional golfer.
The 39-year-old, who is Finland’s most successful golfer of all time, has made the decision to pack away his clubs in order to spend more time with his family after 398 starts on the European Tour.
Ilonen, who was once as high as 37th in the Official World Golf Ranking, believes he still has a future in the sport – and is now determined to grow the game in his home country.
“I am convinced that my retirement is not an end to one thing, but instead the beginning of something new and exciting,” said Ilonen, whose best career year came in 2014 when he triumphed twice and finished tied seventh in the US PGA Championship.
“As a professional golfer, or as an athlete, you sometimes have to be very selfish. I have been selfish for twenty years now and I think it is about time for me to care about others as they have cared for me.
View this post on Instagram
Last couple of months I’ve been debating with myself if that competitive Mikko still exists. After looking at it from all the possible angles, I’ve come to a conclusion to end my playing career. Im confident that it is the right decision. And the time is right. I wanna pursue some of my other dreams and goals in life. Im extremely grateful to my family, friends, partners, coaches, managers and the fans for their support. There’s many ups and downs I’ve shared with many wonderful people around me through out my career. Above is one of the best memories of em all when winning 1st time in Europe, Scandanavian Masters 2007 @europeantour. Credits: @gettyimages Thank you all🙏🏼
“I made a conscious decision to not involve golf in my off-season after the World Cup of Golf last November.
“Instead, I have focused on my family and my own wellbeing. I have used the time well, which means that I have enjoyed the winter and I have done some of the things I used to do as a kid, such as skiing and snowboarding.
“The quality time I have had with my wife and two kids has meant so much to me and I have realised that I don’t want to prioritise other obligations ahead of my family.
“I am very grateful for what golf has given me, but now I want to focus on giving back to those that have supported me and to golf in general.
“My passion is golf and I am determined to find a way of supporting golf in general and Finnish junior golfers in particular.
“I am really looking forward to what the future has in its hands and I hope that I can inspire young boys and girls in Finland and abroad to reach their goals in golf and in life.
“I would like to take this opportunity to thank all the people around me and commercial partners that have supported me through the years. I am looking forward to doing great things together with you also in the future.”
Many of Ilonen’s contemporaries – both on and off the course – have taken time out to pay homage to his achievements.
All good things must come to an end....@MikkoIlonen has decided to retire.— Thomas Bjorn (@thomasbjorngolf) March 22, 2019
I want to wish him and his family all the best in their future endeavours.
Top player and true gentleman!!@EuropeanTour
Enjoyed this Seve Trophy with Mikko as my partner. pic.twitter.com/YVwr3Tr54I
Today @MikkoIlonen announced his retirement from competitive golf... an awesome player and a true gentlemen of the game of golf... Mikko, good luck, take care and i see you somewhere down the road... thank you very much, we will miss you...— Pablo Larrazabal (@plarrazabal) March 22, 2019
@MikkoIlonen Good Luck in what ever you decide to do.Hope to see you along the way.Maybe in Finland when we visit.— Barry Lane (@BazLane) March 22, 2019
Enjoy the family time @MikkoIlonen you’ll be missed pal 👍🏻🍷— Stephen Gallacher (@stevieggolf) March 22, 2019
Hanna Hartikainen, President of the Finnish Golf Union, said:
“Mikko‘s influence on Finnish golf has been significant. The Finnish Golf Union congratulates Mikko on his wonderful career and we are grateful for the work he has done and the model he has created with his team for golfers and elite golf in Finland.
“Mikko is a great asset for golf and we are both looking forward to having him involved in golf also going forward and also finding ways to collaborate together.”