Just weeks before his first appearance on the over-50s circuit at the KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship, former Ryder Cup player Jarmo Sandelin says he has rediscovered his love for the game of golf ahead of his first event as a 50 year old.
Sandelin, who represented Europe at The 1999 Ryder Cup, is one of a number of players who will have played at all levels on the European Tour.
Set to tee it up at Trump National on the banks of the Potomac River, Sandelin is looking forward to enjoying a new lease of life after ten years away from the sport.
“What an opportunity you get when you turn 50,” said Sandelin. “My love for the game is growing bigger than ever before and the opportunity to play this game at this level again is incredible.
“Over the last six months, I have been very serious about my practise and my preparation is going in the right direction.
“I’m not just going to Washingto to show up, I want to go there and play good golf. The only expectation I have of myself is that I’m going to go out there and try my best and see how far it takes me.
“I remember when I started to play properly at the age of 14. We had an indoor golf centre in Stockholm and we would watch old golf tournaments. My childhood hero was Tom Watson.
“If someone had told me that 35 years later I would be playing in the same tournament as him, I wouldn’t have believed them.”Pictured in 2002 after his victory at the BMW Asian Open
After losing his European Tour card at the turn of the decade, Sandelin admits that the loss of his playing privileges gave him the opportunity to focus on other aspects of his life.
“Over the last 30 years, I have had a fantastic time,” he continued. “I have a family and my children are now 10, 14 and 17. It was great having a break to spend time with the family and, in one way, it was good that I lost my card.
“It feels like I’m starting out again. I’m fit and healthy and I’m looking forward to being the youngest of the old group.
“I have been away for a long time but I feel as though my game is in good shape. The most important part of golf, for me, is the mental side of things. You find yourself stood on a fairway, asking yourself if you go for a certain shot and working out your options and also being consistent – the only way to get that experience back again is to play tournaments.
“Over the last six months, I’ve been playing a lot. You don’t want to turn up to a tournament unprepared.”
Finishing ninth on the European Challenge Tour’s Order of Merit in 1994 saw him graduate to the European Tour. In 1995, he would follow in compatriot Per-Ulrik Johansson’s footsteps as the second Swedish winner of the Sir Henry Cotton Rookie of the Year award.
He won the Turespana Open de Canarias title in his first season, in what was just his eighth career European Tour appearance, finishing one stroke ahead of Seve Ballesteros and Paul Eales and went on to finish 21st on the Order of Merit on his debut season.
Sandelin secured his second title the following year, and then added two titles to his trophy cabinet in 1999, which saw him earn a place as one of seven rookies in Mark James’ Ryder Cup team.
“Golf is such a fantastic sport,” said Sandelin. “I started to play aged just one and I have worked so hard. I started on the Challenge Tour and then played the European Tour, I feel as though I had a fantastic career and my highlight is representing Europe at The Ryder Cup.
“These great memories are coming back and now I feel at home again.”
Known for his colourful demeanour, both on the course in his choice of clothing, and off it for his outspoken interviews, Sandelin has played down the use of an extravagant wardrobe on the Senior Tour.
“The colourful outfits should be left to the younger guys, it’s all about comfort now,” he said with a laugh. “I do like colour though, so we’ll have to see. It’s a shame we’re not playing in Texas this week, I might have brought my snake-skin boots with me.”
Sandelin will make his regular Senior Tour debut at the European Tour Properties Senior Classic at Linna Golf, Finland, from June 21-23. The 50 year old was born in Finland, but took up Swedish citizenship as his family moved there when he was young.
“It will be great going back to Finland, especially to play golf there,” he said. “A lot of my friends and family still live there, so it will be a great opportunity to see them again.”