In this week’s Player Blog presented by Enterprise Rent-A-Car, Marcus Kinhult reflects on the events that led to him being diagnosed with epilepsy, his subsequent recovery, winning his maiden DP World Tour title at the 2019 Betfred British Masters, and his pride at seeing his sister play on the LPGA Tour.
Last year, in early April, I was in Spain preparing for the Austrian Golf Open, which was later that month. I was down there with my Dad and my friends practicing and was having a great time. I felt good, life was really good. Obviously, there was a lot going on in the world with Covid at the time, but I felt healthy. After a long day on the course, playing with some of the professionals from Sweden, I had a shower in my room, and I was getting ready to go and meet them. Before I was due to leave, I was on FaceTime with my girlfriend Agnes who was back home in Sweden. We talked for 20 minutes or so. I don’t remember much of what followed but she told me afterwards what happened. I just said to her that at one stage I felt a little dizzy. After that I dropped my phone on the floor and then everything went black for me.
Most likely that was the first seizure of the evening. I was alone in the apartment at that stage, so my girlfriend was obviously worried, and she called my best friend and my old caddie, Adam, who caddied for me at Hillside when we won the Betfred British Masters. He is a professional himself, and was there practising also. He was only 10 minutes away, so once Agnes called him, he came to the apartment and found me on the floor, almost unconscious. He woke me up and we had a conversation, he didn’t really understand how it had happened and neither did I. From my point of view, what happened that evening is just a blank space of memory. I can’t remember a thing but during those hours I had conversations with him and the doctors. What I am telling you now is just what they told me. Adam found me lying on the floor, woke me up, got me into bed and then my Dad came. After another half hour, I had another seizure, but I was in the bed luckily, so they had it under control and they called for the ambulance. The ambulance arrived half an hour to an hour later and they were going to take me to the hospital, but when they tried to get me into the ambulance, I had another seizure. It was pretty safe at that stage. That was sometime before midnight, I think.
I then woke up at 7am in the morning in the hospital and I couldn’t remember a thing. It was kind of scary but at the same time, since I don’t remember a thing, it is a very grey memory. I woke up with a lot of pain, wasn’t sure what was going on, Spanish doctors all around me. I had needles in my body. I understood that something was wrong, but I couldn’t really tell what it was. My Spanish is not very good, I speak a little but in the hospital it was quite hard for me to communicate with the doctors. A few of them knew a bit of English but it still wasn’t easy. Later on, my Dad was allowed to visit, his Spanish is better than mine and I was then able to understand more. I realised it was pretty bad. I was in the hospital for around a week, and they did a lot of tests and screenings to figure out what had caused it. According to them it was epilepsy, they found electrical activity in the brain and at that stage they got me on the right medication, and since that day really I have been on the same medication. A couple of weeks later I was in good enough shape to be allowed to fly home to Sweden. When I got home, I did similar tests with a Swedish doctor that I have, got good help from her and I still have contact with her. We do check-ups, not so frequently anymore, but we have it under control. We have lowered the dose of the medication that I have so it feels a lot better now.
It took me a while to get back into shape, I am still working on that every day. Life is a little bit different now but at the same time I feel healthy, I can play golf again and I can do most things that I could do before. Now, a year after it happened, I have my driving licence back which was taken away from me. That was tough as well. Life is not too bad; I feel like I am quite lucky. Yes, it has been a tough year but from now it feels like life is as normal as it can be. I can do the things that I like and live life to the fullest. I am on the medications for life, probably, but that is fine because the side effects are not severe at all.
The doctors said to me at the time it was up to me when I could return to golf. It was not dangerous for me to go and play at all, they said it would be my own limitations that would be the controlling factor. The first month or so, I could not swing a club at all. I was in a lot of pain, mainly in my back but after that I recovered well and quite quickly, at least that is how it felt. Looking back at it now, I probably came back a little too early, but I knew I had the chance to play the Open Championship in July and I really wanted to do that. If it wasn’t for that I probably would have waited a little longer. I wasn’t 100% in July when I came back at the Irish Open, I just really wanted to, play and didn’t want The Open Championship to be my first event. We discussed this a lot back home, there is no right or wrong answer really. To play events at not 100% is still going to be a learning experience and maybe help speed up your recovery if managed carefully. That was always my approach. I believed if I was just sitting at home the recovery was likely to be as slow as being out there playing. The results were pretty bad after my return last year for my standards, but at the same time I was happy to be out playing. In my mind that was the right thing to do. If it hadn’t been for The Open, I would have waited a couple of months I guess, but I am here now, and I am feeling better and better every month. It feels like I am taking two steps forward and one step back and over time it is going to get better. These days I don’t think about the epilepsy diagnosis as much anymore, so I am living a normal life again which I am very thankful for.
I received great support from a lot of people. Matthias Schwab from Austria has always been a very good friend of mine and he reached out to me quite a lot during that time, so I really appreciated that and all the support from my fellow Swedes. My friends and family back home have been very good to me. Because of me losing my driving licence, my girlfriend especially spent a lot of time driving me around and taking very good care of me. I am super thankful for that and all the different kind of support I have had, especially during the first few months after the diagnosis. I wouldn’t say I was in a very dark place, but it was maybe not the best time of my life looking back at it. It is always nice to feel that support when you are at the bottom. It is nice to have it when everything is going well but when you are struggling like that it really shows where your best supporters are.
It was nice to see the text messages from the other professionals on the Tour. It really helped me, and I guess in a way it motivated me to come back and play again. I always knew that I was going to come back and play but at the start It was very uncertain for how long I was going to be out from the game.
It seems like forever ago when I won the 2019 Betfred British Masters with all that the world has been through and that I have been through. When I look back it is obviously one of the best days and weeks of my life, and my golfing life especially. It was nice to get that first win on the European Tour, now DP World Tour. It was a dream come true. If you had told me then what was coming afterwards, I would probably have laughed at you. At that stage I was 22 years old, and I wanted to win a lot more but that hasn’t happened obviously yet. It has been a rollercoaster really but here we are now. I am happy to be back, it is not the same venue as it was in 2019, when it was at Hillside. I have been to The Belfry once before and I really enjoyed it here and I am sure I will as well this time. I was gutted to miss out on this event last year when Blandy won, it looked really nice on TV but obviously I wasn’t healthy to play so I am happy to be here now.
My win at Hillside was an interesting one because I was leading with four to play and felt pretty good. Even before that I gave myself a lot of good looks, but I didn’t quite hole any putts. I felt like I was playing well and then suddenly I made two bogeys and felt like Matt Wallace was going to run away with it. I also saw that Bob MacIntyre had made an eagle at 17 and birdied the last. A lot of things happened during a 20-minute spell, and it was hard to keep up with what was going on! After the two bogeys on 15 and 16 I didn’t really believe it was possible to win anymore but it turned out to be. I managed to make a good birdie on the 17th and Matt missed a short one for birdie so all of a sudden I was in with a chance and made the most of it on 18.
In June, a month after I won the Betfred British Masters, I qualified for the U.S. Open through the sectional qualifier at Walton Health. That was another highlight of 2019 and I guess my whole golfing career so far. Just being at Pebble Beach and playing that event on that venue was another dream come true. I was out early on Sunday morning, and I just played one of the best rounds of my life. It was quite enjoyable, walking down the 18th with some big crowds. If I remember right, I missed a good birdie opportunity on the last to shoot a 65. I just played some good golf and that closing 66 made the week even more special. It was nice to sit on that flight back home on the Sunday evening. A really good round and a really good result for me at that stage. It was and still is my best finish in a Major Championship.
Obviously two top tens so far this season in Kenya and Qatar is very good, especially after a year without being in contention. It was nice to be in with a chance of winning again, to put three or four good rounds together in the same event. It was nice to have the physical capability to do that because that was something that I started to doubt for a little bit. Before playing at the Magical Kenya Open, I went to Spain to play in a couple of the Nordic Golf League events during the two-week break on the DP World Tour schedule. I stayed with my friends and had a great time. I put myself in position to challenge for two straight tournaments and managed to win one of them. I think that was a big part in giving me my confidence back, and allowed me to go on and play well in Kenya. Looking back at it, that was a good thing for me to do. To spend some time with my friends from back home again who play in the Nordic Golf League, was a lot of fun, and is something that I still miss.
When you have set your yearly goals, you have got to find the weekly and daily goals to make you move towards that bigger goal. This year I would like to start seeing some good results and I would really like to win again on the DP World Tour. It was nice to get that first win and it would be very nice to win again and prove to myself that I can do it after all that I have been through. However, the level on the DP World Tour is good so you have to play well. I can’t put too much pressure on myself to win again, it is all about playing good golf and that is what I am focusing on in my preparations before a tournament. If I can handle myself and do my best, then I know I am going to put myself in the position to have a chance on Sunday. That is a big reason for still playing the game. That is what inspired me as a young kid and that’s what you dream about, and it gives me a nice kick to put myself in that position. It is like a healthy drug that I want more of.
Seeing my sister, Frida, get her card on this year’s LPGA Tour makes me a very proud brother. Not just because of her golfing achievements but for the person that she is. She deserves all the success that she has, and she works hard for it. It is cool to see her do well. We have a great relationship, but it is a shame that we can’t see each other as much now that she is on the other side of the pond. I haven’t seen her in over a year, so we are going to try and organise something. There is a possibility that we could both play in the ISPS Handa World Invitational in Northern Ireland in August. It is a tri-sanctioned event with the LPGA Tour and Ladies European Tour, and we have been talking about playing in the same event, maybe sharing a room for the week. That would be very special. There is a possibility there, we shall see. But most of all I am just very happy for her. She is enjoying it over there and that is the main thing.
Returning to this week’s Betfred British Masters hosted by Danny Willett, I have good memories from The Belfry. I played in the ISPS Handa UK Championship on the Brabazon Course when we came back after the COVID-19 break in 2020. I remember that I played reasonably well, and I really enjoyed the course. I wasn’t even born when they had three of the four Ryder Cups to be staged here so I can’t relate as well to the course like some of the older guys can who watched it on TV or were on site. I have seen some of the highlights and it looks like the same place! I am happy we are back here, and I hope this venue will be on the schedule for the coming years. We will see how it plays, the weather seems to be good, and the course is in good shape so we will try to make the most of it. I am also excited that my new caddie Laurie Potter will have the chance to caddy on home soil this week, and he will have his family and friends come over for Friday and the weekend.