In this week’s player blog, Denmark’s Søren Kjeldsen discusses the growth of Made in Denmark, family life in his home country and his Olympic experience.
The Danish players are so proud of Made in Denmark. I don’t think any of us could have envisaged how this tournament would develop. The first time we heard there was going to be a tournament in our home country we were excited but we wondered how good it could be. Now it is one of the best tournaments, and most popular tournaments, we have on The European Tour. We are so happy and the guys who organise it, and the sponsors, have just done an incredible job. The big thing is that the people have continued to come out and support it. It makes a huge difference playing in front of such big crowds. Atmosphere is so important in sport and this tournament really has that. As well as the support of the fans, this tournament has also really helped give some of the younger players the chance to play a European Tour and get a sense of the level they need to be at, so it has been a success on so many levels. The only thing we are missing is a Danish winner. I finished second last year but to finally get that win in the third edition of the tournament would be perfect. We will all be trying our best, that’s for sure, and you can imagine the place would go crazy if it happens.
Playing the 16th hole is amazing. The reception I got last year was incredible. It was one of the best experiences of my life really. I didn’t know that anything was planned for my 500th European Tour appearance, so to walk up there to total silence and then see all the signs and all the people, it was very special. It was already a good week for me as the support I was getting was incredible, but for them to organise that and for the people to come out and show their support – you can’t beat that. I was asked in an interview the other day to mention the four highlights of my career so far and I said: sitting down in Portugal in 1997 and finding out play had been washed out which meant I had secured my Tour card; winning my first tournament at Gleneagles in 2003 and not just being on Tour but being a champion; winning the Irish Open in 2015 after coming back from playing so badly; and then the 16th hole last year. So it was one of the best experiences of my very long career.
This year has been a solid one for me. I take a lot of pride in playing well at the Majors, finishing in the top ten at the Masters and The Open, but I still don’t think I’ve hit the heights yet. There is room for improvement but after last year, which was a turning point in my career, I’ve been pretty satisfied with how I’ve played. You hear people talk about a player who shoots 63 or 64 in a round and how it is tough to follow that up and it’s a bit like that for me following last season, so I think I’ve done alright.
I’ll be doing my best to impress Captain Clarke this week. I always try to impress Darren anyway, but I would love to play well this week and I will be determined to do that. I’m trying not to think too much about The Ryder Cup, though. I can’t guarantee a spot now, so I’m dependent on Darren picking me. The only way I have a chance for him to do that is by playing extremely well this week and all my energy and effort is going to go into doing that. I’m not going to worry about The Ryder Cup though, I’m just going to try to get that little white ball in the hole as quickly as possible. I’d love to make the team. I think I’m an outside bet, but if I can play well this week, who knows?
I’ve got a special caddie for the pro-am this week. I had a competition on Facebook where I asked people to tell me why they should caddie for me in the pro-am. We had more than 1,200 people write in and so many could have won it, but we went for an 11 year old call Fredrik Pedersen, who is a keen golfer from Aalborg. His mum wrote to me and said the first thing he does when he wakes up on a Saturday morning is ask where Søren Kjeldsen is on the leaderboard. So he is a big fan, and he will also get to walk with the Crown Prince of Denmark, who I’m playing with, so it will be a special day for him.
Playing in the Olympics has definitely inspired me. It was amazing to be part of the whole thing. It is huge and it was nice that golf was back on the programme there. The course was good and even though I didn’t play that well, it was a huge honour to represent Denmark. It was great to go to other events as well and enjoy the whole experience. We got to watch so many other sports including handball, which is the national pride for us. It was great to take the kids to so many events, like weightlifting, cycling – stuff they had never seen, so they were super excited. That’s what the Olympics is about. The atmosphere was incredible and you definitely take that home with you.
One of the highlights of the Olympics was meeting Neymar. He was pretty much the first guy we saw when we got to the village in Rio. The kids got their picture taken with him and they couldn’t believe it. All their friends wanted to kill them. But just walking round the Olympic village was incredible. The other athletes were either tiny, or seven foot tall. Nobody was normal size! It was like that film Monsters Inc. Overall, it was an amazing experience and it was great for the kids to be there too.
Home will always be home to me. We moved back to Denmark two years ago after living in England for 11 years and we are really enjoying it. We are refurbishing the house so we’ve been out of it for about six months. Funnily enough, Anders Hansen’s caddie is in charge of the project and I saw him here on Monday night so I joked to him “how have you got time to be here - I meant to be moving back in there in three weeks?”! It’s been great being back in Denmark, though. I know all the stuff about Danish people being the happiest in the world, and I’m not sure about that, but it is certainly a nice place to live. I’ve certainly appreciated the little things a lot more since we moved back, such as the newspapers, the food and seeing the kids go to school on their bikes. Where I live now is more like where I came from, so I feel very settled and I think that has definitely helped me perform better on the golf course. We loved living in England, and we had a great time, but the pace of life was so much quicker. Being back home is comforting.
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