A slice of the Finnish action

8/1/2012 10:19:02 AM
Kytäjä Golf, Finland ()
Kytäjä Golf, Finland ()

Our press officer at the Finnish Challenge brings you all the action from on and off the course at Kytäja Golf…

Irish Rumble
The pro-am here at the Finnish Challenge took on a different format from usual, employing the ‘Irish Rumble’ system. For those not familiar with this, it involves taking the best stableford score of one player for each hole for the first six holes, the best score from two players for the second six, the best score from three for the next five and then all four scores for the last hole. It is a great concept, but takes some working out – especially when it is a shotgun pro-am and every team starts on a different hole. For some the calculations were as challenging as playing the course itself.

Land of the Midnight Sun
At this time of year in Hyvinkää, about 50km from of Finland’s capital, Helsinki, it never really gets dark at night, being so far north. There are a few hours, between about 1am and 4am, where it is at its darkest, but still it is not pitch black, as it would be further south in Europe. It prompted stories of tournaments gone by in Finland, of walking out of a bar or nightclub late at night into broad daylight and being taken by surprise. Up in the most northerly points of Finland during the summer, the sun never dips below the horizon all day, so it has been named ‘Land of the Midnight Sun’. In contrast, during winter, the sun never comes up, so inhabitants there have to cope with six months in the dark.  Not so good for golf.

Olympic fever
Players and staff alike at the Finnish Challenge have been gripped by Olympic fever this week, and fortunately action from the Games is being shown on televisions at the club and in the hotel. On Tuesday evening, the most popular spot in town was in front of the TV in the hotel bar, which was showing women’s gymnastics and men’s rifle. Where else but the Olympics would you have a crowd of young golfers critiquing a Chinese girl’s floor routine?! It certainly beats the alternative channels, however, with one station bizzarely showing an episode of the old English sit-com ‘Keeping Up Appearances’ with Finnish subtitles. The Games coverage also prompted a debate about golf being part of the next Olympics, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 2016. A gold medal, we concluded, would be just as valuable, if not more so, in raising the profile of a golfer in his own country than a Major Championship. We will soon see…

Kafelnikov dreams of Rio 2016
Former professional tennis player Yevgeny Kafelnikov makes another appearance in a Challenge Tour event this week, having played in his native Russia and in Kazakhstan last season and in last week’s Lyoness Open powered by Greenfinity on The European Tour. The 38 year old decided to pursue professional golf after quitting tennis in 2004 – and after a brief spell as a poker player – and has dreams of representing Russia in the 2016 Olympics. Read more from his interview here

Fitness galore
The official hotel, about 12km from Kytäja Golf, feels as though it is completely in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by dense forest. It certainly makes for a very healthy week, as the forest is chock-full of hiking and running trails of varying length, which are also used for cross-country skiing in winter. Yours truly set off to explore the nature with a run on the first evening here, and thankfully my visions of being lost deep in the Finnish forest all night and running Forrest Gump style for hours did not materialise, as the trails are clearly marked and colour coded. Some of the players also took advantage of the trails too – it certainly beats a sweaty gym!

Language barrier
Having visited Sweden, Denmark and Norway before, where the languages are all very similar and the people from these different countries can understand each other, I assumed Finland would be in the same category. Not so. Surprisingly, the Finnish language is very different from the others in the Nordic region, despite being ruled by Sweden for several hundred years, so English is the main tongue for the week.