Meet the Rookies: Johan Carlsson

12/3/2013 10:11:11 AM
Johan Carlsson (Phil Inglis) ()
Johan Carlsson (Phil Inglis) ()

After a whirlwind rise through the professional ranks Johan Carlsson will be living the dream in 2014 as he embarks on a maiden European Tour campaign.

At six foot five inches tall, the Swede, who resides in Gothenburg, is an imposing presence off the course and in the past 12 months his golf game has started to match his physical stature thanks to a career defining maiden title during a very successful rookie Challenge Tour campaign.

Not only did Carlsson earn victory at the lucrative Kazakhstan Open, but he blitzed the field last September to win by seven shots from his nearest competitor and ensure a first taste of European Tour action.

He eventually finished fifth in the Challenge Tour Rankings thanks to six further top ten finishes, despite having started the year by missing his first four cuts.

That would have tested the character of the man who finished second in the satellite Nordic Golf League’s Order of Merit in 2012 to graduate to European golf’s second tier, but such a strong run of results and his win in Kazakhstan was the perfect response, and proof of the belief he now has in his game.

“I’m very excited to be playing for the first time on The European Tour,” said the San Diego State University graduate. “It is going to be very new for me, and I don’t really know what to expect other than the fact it is going to be great fun.

“Winning in Kazakhstan absolutely gave me the confidence that I can play on The European Tour. It gave me the belief that I could compete and even win on the Challenge Tour, and that if I keep doing the same things then I’ll be able to play well at the next level too.

“The first step for this season will definitely be to keep my card, that would be the main goal and I don’t want to put any others out there, but that is obviously my major focus and we’ll just see how it goes. I’m just excited, it is going to be amazing.

“I’m really looking forward to playing back home in Sweden too, at the Nordea Masters, as I’ve been wanting to play there for many years and have played in the qualifying four or five times. I’ve missed out by a shot a couple of times as an amateur, but that event will be so much fun with all my friends and family, and to be back home, so I’m really looking forward to it.”

No one would blame him for being excited, but there is a very clear level headedness to the Swede, a clarity with which he goes about his business that suggests he won’t be overawed by how quickly he has risen to European golf’s top table.

History is full of promising amateurs who have not quite transferred that skill to the paid ranks but Carlsson, who rose as high as 13th in the World Amateur Golf Rankings in 2006, has taken his time to turn professional, and at 27 years old he feels ready for the challenge.

“There is a big difference between playing as an amateur and as a pro, and for me I have enjoyed playing for myself as a professional and doing my own thing, which has made it a good change,” said Carlsson, one of the few men to win as an amateur on the Swedish professional circuit.

“I know that for some people, turning pro can be tough, but for me it has been the opposite. I just love it. All I have to think about is myself, I can just find my own rhythm out on the golf course and get my own routines and I think I’ve done that pretty well, so I like it.

“They take things very professionally at colleges in America, but since then I have preferred playing out here as I can take expectations away and focus on doing my own thing, which makes it easier for me.

“It makes a big difference too, coming out here a little older, as the more you know yourself and the more confident you are in who you are, makes it easier out on the golf course. When I was younger I just wanted it too bad and that makes it harder out here. You’ve just got to lower your expectations a little bit and go out, have fun and realise that the results aren’t the end of the world. You’ve got to enjoy the process more.”

Wise words, and proof that there is a mature head on the Swede’s especially broad shoulders. It could also explain the success of Carlsson’s first sojourn into European Tour life at the season-opening South African Open Championship hosted by the City of Ekurhuleni, where he carded rounds of 69-70-68-67 to finish in a tie for seventh at Glendower GC.

A solid start, indeed, to the next chapter of the Kazakhstan Open winner’s career and proof that he is another rookie worth looking out for in the coming 12 months.