If last weekend proved anything, it was that the future of Danish golf is bright, as Thorbjørn Olesen won his maiden European Tour title and two more up and coming Danes were in contention on the Challenge Tour at the Barclays Kenya Open.
Twenty-two year old Olesen, a product of the Challenge Tour having graduated in fourth place in the 2010 Rankings, produced a nerveless performance to win the Sicilian Open, continuing his rapid progress. Last year the 22 year old finished 48th in The Race to Dubai in his rookie campaign with four top ten finishes, the highlight coming at the Alstom Open de France, where he was second behind Thomas Levet.
There is no shortage of Danish role models with players such as Thomas Björn, Anders Hansen, Soren Hansen and Søren Kjeldsen showing the way on The European Tour, but Olesen is much closer in age to the younger Danes on the Challenge Tour, who put in a fine showing in Nairobi last week. He has shown them what can be achieved in a short space of time.
Six of the seven Danes in the field made the cut at Muthaiga Golf Club, Morten Orum Madsen led for the first two rounds and was in contention on the final day, and Lasse Jensen was leading until the final hole but ultimately lost in a play-off to Englishman Seve Benson.
Danish players occupy three of the top seven spots in the current Challenge Tour Rankings, with Jensen fifth, Madsen sixth and Andreas Hartø seventh.
Like Olesen, Hartø graduated from the 2010 Rankings having exploded on to the scene by winning on his Challenge Tour debut while still an amateur, and then triumphing again two months later, making it two wins from four appearances.
The 23 year old admits it all probably happened too soon for him, as he is back playing on the Challenge Tour this year, but he is feeling far more comfortable as a professional, which is largely down to the presence and success of his compatriots.
“I learned a lot last year and grew a lot as a golfer and as a person,” he said. “I feel way more comfortable playing on Tour. Last year I didn’t really have anyone and I was by myself a lot, but this year there are seven to ten of us who are all close. It’s going to be positive for all of us.
“Morten and Lasse are playing very well and it’s always nice to have others to feed off and play practice rounds with. It’s great for Danish golf. There are a lot of very good Danish players playing out here. It’s nice to be around them and in an environment where we are all doing well. It’s a good vibe.”
Jensen said: “On The European Tour you see Søren Kjeldsen and Thorbjørn Olesen doing well and I think at the moment Danish golf is in a really exciting phase. There are so many good players and we are pushing each other.
“They are doing well and you think, ‘I’m playing practice rounds with this guy and if he can do it, I can do it’ and I think that’s a very positive thing. We are pushing our countrymen to be better. We are a small country and we don’t have so many big players in our history, so it’s definitely looking good.”
Olesen might just have started the ball rolling for a new generation of Danish domination, who will follow in the footsteps of Björn, the Hansens and Kjeldsen, and he credits his progress to the grounding he had on the Challenge Tour.
He said: “It’s the best place to learn about the game, and I really enjoyed my time on the Challenge Tour. Obviously you try to spend only one season there, because the goal is to get onto The European Tour. But you learn so much in that season – playing four tournament rounds in different conditions.
“I don’t think I’d be sitting here now if I hadn’t spent last season on the Challenge Tour, so I have a lot to thank the Tour for. It’s so competitive and it turns you into a winner.”