The inaugural Made in Denmark marks The European Tour’s return to the host country for the first time in 11 years, providing the natural opportunity to celebrate the nation’s achievements on the world stage in the intervening period.
With Danish golf’s pioneer Thomas Björn on the verge of a Ryder Cup return and an impressive crop of talent young players emerging, including European Tour winners Thorbjørn Olesen and Morten Ørum Madsen, 2014 is an exciting time in Denmark’s golfing evolution.
Amidst this backdrop, the success of two of the country’s European Tour stalwarts, Anders Hansen and Søren Kjeldsen, could easily be overlooked, yet in many ways the current landscape owes much to their individual accomplishments alongside 15-time European Tour winner Bjørn.
Hansen and Kjeldsen each boast three European Tour victories on their CVs, the former winning the flagship PGA Championship at Wentworth in 2002 and 2007, while the latter’s trio of triumphs includes the 2008 season-ending Volvo Masters, as he finished tenth on that year’s Money List.
For Kjeldsen, the week’s event at Himmerland Golf & Spa Resort marks something of a double homecoming, having recently moved back to his homeland following 11 years living in England. He believes Made in Denmark is an important part of his country’s continuing golfing development, with the appetite for top level tournament golf reflected in weekend tickets for Made in Denmark selling out in advance.
“It’s great to be back in Denmark,” he said. “We’ve only played one European Tour event in Denmark and with the amount of success Danish players have had, we’ve been desperate to get another tournament here.
“Tournaments bring young players to the events and for us, it is important that the juniors come out and watch. I went to watch the French Open when I was 15 or 16 years old, and for me it had a big impact on my decision to turn pro. To get up close to the players is pretty special for a young kid, and now we have the chance to bring that to Denmark, and I think it will make a difference.
“With the amount of tickets they have sold, the interest is huge.”
While the success of players such as Björn, Hansen, Kjeldsen and the injured Søren Hansen has helped bring through new Danish players, Kjeldsen is hoping the emergence of the next generation can reciprocate by keeping him competitive as he approaches his 40th birthday next year.
“When we started out there were only two Danish players on Tour and neither of them had won, so it has changed a lot with Thomas winning and we have tried to keep up with him,” said Kjeldsen.
“Hopefully this event will help inspire some kids and make them work a little harder and chase their dreams like we did.
“The players coming through now are trying to make it a changing of the guard, I suppose. They are good players, aged about 22 to 26. They are big, strong and committed. It’s nice for us older guys too. We are trying to show them that we still have it. The better they play, the more I want to go out and work hard and show them I can still play and still beat them. When the younger guys are from your own country, I feel they now inspire me. It’s a lot of fun for Thomas, Anders and me, who have been out here a long time, to get some fresh faces.”
A consistent performer for more than 15 years on The European Tour, Kjeldsen is currently in 127th position on The Race to Dubai, but he is hoping that the home support can help kick-start his 2014 campaign.
“It’s a great opportunity for us, a great week to try to turn things around and start playing well,” he said. “With the support we are going to have it might help you, you never know. You never know how you are going to react, but let’s hope some of the Dane’s do well because the fans love it here and they really want to see a Dane do well on Sunday.”
Like Kjeldsen, Hansen is also at the beginning of a new chapter, having earlier this season returned from Switzerland to live in his country of birth.
Hansen missed more than six months of competition at the end of 2013 and start of 2014 due to a wrist injury, and after two top five finishes since his return to action, he is now also hoping that the home support can help inspire him to greater things.
“We are so used to playing away from Denmark and having your normal routine, and then all of a sudden there are so many people here you know,” he said. “So it is very different, but it is also great. The support from the tournament is awesome and they have done such a great job setting up the whole thing.
“I’ve not really played here before, certainly not after the changes they have made. One of the key factors will obviously be the wind here. It’s going to be windy so you need to keep the ball in play. It will be difficult to keep it on the fairway, but the course is in great shape.
“I’m a little bit behind following the two surgeries last year and 65th in the Race to Dubai is obviously not where I want to be, so hopefully I can play well this week and start moving up.”