After Sami Välimäki claimed his maiden victory at the 2020 Oman Open, we take a closer look at the other European Tour winners to hail from Finland
The 21-year-old, who was playing in just his sixth event since gaining his card, defeated Brandon Stone on the third play-off hole at Al Mouj Golf to claim his first European Tour title.
His breakthrough success was impressive, but he wasn’t the only golfer from Finland to do well in Oman. Mikko Korhonen, a two-time European Tour winner, ended the week in a tie for fourth place, while their compatriot Kalle Samooja finished the week tied for 30th.
It’s the third victory from a Finnish player in as many seasons, and the recent success of golfers to hail from their country has not gone unnoticed by Finland’s most recent champion.
“There are not many words to say, it’s unbelievable.” Said Välimäki. “It is great that more Finnish golfers are doing well in the sport and golf is getting more popular there in Finland.”
The most successful Finnish golfer in history reached a high of 37th in the Official World Golf Ranking and won a total of five European Tour titles between 2007 and 2014.
Ilonen, who became the first golfer from Finland to win the Amateur Championship in 2000, turned professional in 2001 and quickly gained attention, finishing tied for ninth place in The Open Championship at Royal Lytham & St Anne’s that year.
His breakthrough victory in 2007 came at the Enjoy Jakarta Astro Indonesia Open in February, and he followed it soon after with his second European Tour win at the Scandinavian Masters that August.
He ended a near six year wait for another title in 2013 with a three-stroke victory at the Nordea Masters (formerly the Scandinavian Masters), making him the fourth multiple winner of that event.
The best year of his career came in 2014, where he edged out Eduardo Molinari to the Irish Open title before defeating Henrik Stenson 3&1 to win the Volvo World Match Play Championship at the London Club. That year he also finished tied seventh at the PGA Championship at Southern Hills Country Club and lost in a play-off to Sergio Garcia at the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters.
The 40-year-old announced his retirement from professional golf on his website in 2019, stating that he wanted to spend more time with his family. He last played at the Alfred Dunhill Championship in 2018.
Roope Kakko became the second golfer from Finland to win on the European Tour during his 2015 victory at the Madeira Islands Open, where he posted a final round nine under par 63 to defeat Scott Henry by three shots.
It was Kakko’s third professional victory, which he achieved 11 years after he became the third amateur to win a Challenge Tour event with his 2004 triumph at the Volvo Finnish Open.
Despite his early success, he had to wait nine years for his next win, beating out Lucas Bjerregaard at the National Bank of Oman Classic in 2013 for his second Challenge Tour title.
He returned to the Challenge Tour in 2017, where he has since recorded four top 10s – including a tie for third place at the 2019 Vierumäki Finnish Challenge, which followed his return to the game after he spent time off with reactive arthritis in his leg.
Kakko currently plays on the Challenge Tour. He finished 47th on the Road to Mallorca rankings in 2019 and reached a high of 198 in the World Golf Rankings in 2014.
With two European Tour victories in the last two seasons, Mikko Korhonen is currently the highest ranked golfer from Finland at 142nd in the world
Unlike his fellow compatriots, Korhonen didn’t turn professional until the age of 24, and spent the early stages of his career on what is now known as the Nordic Golf League before coming to play on the Challenge Tour in 2006.
He then spent five seasons on the Challenge Tour, gaining his European Tour card for the first time in 2010, where he has played continuously since 2013.
Korhonen earned his first victory in convincing style, winning the 2018 Shot Clock Masters by six strokes from Connor Syme on his 146th European Tour start.
His next title, the 2019 Volvo China Open, was a much more tense affair. Having tied Benjamin Hébert at 20 under par, Korhonen made a birdie at the first playoff hole to win.
Korhonen finished 48th in last year’s Race to Dubai and recorded his first top ten of 2020 at the Oman Open last week.
The 21-year-old needed just six events to become the fourth golfer from Finland to win on the European Tour.
Välimäki, who was in the top ten of the World Amateur Golf Rankings in 2018, completed his compulsory military service in Finland at the end 2018, and turned professional in January 2019.
His first year as a professional was a successful one. He had four victories on the Pro Golf Tour – including three in consecutive starts at the end of the season - and finished second on the Order of Merit.
Välimäki went on to earn his card through Qualifying School Final Stage in 2019. After making his European Tour debut at the KLM Open he recorded his first top ten at the ISPS Handa Vic Open at the beginning of February.
He earned his maiden European Tour title in just his sixth start, having forced a play-off with Brandon Stone after sinking a lengthy birdie putt on the 72nd hole. The pair took two trips up the 18th before a mistake from Stone meant a par from Välimäki was enough to win.
The most recent Finnish champion has now moved from 372nd to 159th in the Official World Golf Ranking, and currently sits at 13th in the Race to Dubai.