Alex Norén - Swede success
Like Northern Ireland, Sweden is a country that seems to punch well above the belt when producing great golfers. Alex Noren is the latest Scandinavian golfer to make his mark on the international scene, so what’s the secret to his success?…
Early days Growing up in Haninge, a little south of Stockholm, golf was just something that Alex and his friends did to pass the time. Not suffering from the same stuffiness that seems prevalent in the UK, the clubs in Sweden are much more laidback and welcoming to the younger generation. “The putting green was a natural kindergarden,” says Norén. “Being long and narrow it gave us enough creativity to try the craziest shots when having contests. The bet was always ice cream to the winner, and we played golf all day. Our parents had to bring food out onto the course because dinner wasn't our priority; lowering our handicap was. We kids played rounds together; sometimes we let our parents join in if there weren't enough of us. I think the opportunity to just play without being instructed by anyone gave us a complete joy and love for the game.”
Oklahoma State University Norén was competing with the Swedish National Golf Team when he made the big decision to move to the US and study at Oklahoma State University. This was to get the chance to play for the University Golf Team, which is one of the best in the country. “There was a lot of pressure for all players to do well,” says Norén, “but it helped to be in that sort of regime and to learn how to cope mentally with the demands of the game.” Norén turned pro in 2005, just missing out on a European Tour card but getting full exemption on the Challenge Tour for 2006. He’s had 11 top-ten moments, including a win at the Rolex Trophy in Geneva which put him at third place in the final order of merit. He had a full tour card for the European Tour 2007 and by 2009 Norén had a ranking of 25th and a win at the Omega European Masters in Switzerland. Moving on up Successes continued until 2014 when he was forced to take time out to recover from an injury, but by 2015 he was back on track with a win at the Nordea Masters. Norén’s best year yet was 2016; winning four in 11 starts on the European Tour. In July, he won the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open to secure his fifth European Tour victory. He then went on to win the Omega European Masters, followed by his third win of the season at the British Masters at The Grove, lifting him to 18th in the official world golf ranking.
Now preparing for his first US Masters, Great Golf catches up with him for the lowdown on life as Alex Norén…
GGM So, with the Masters coming up soon, what are your thoughts?
Norén It’s great to be competing there this year, and this upcoming competition has finally got Jennifer my girlfriend interested in golf. She is very much on my case for the Masters, which is a good thing.
GGM Have you ever played Augusta?
Norén No, not yet but I am looking forward to it. Being part of the Masters is going to be an incredible experience.
GGM Do you have a game plan?
Norén Just to do my best and be as prepared as possible. Make sure that I am physically and emotionally ready. Being based in Florida during the winter means that I have plenty of opportunity to make sure that I am in good form. The weather here is perfect during the colder months.
GGM Sweden has produced some great golfers, why do you think this is?
Norén Even though we don’t have the best weather for golf, it’s a sport that is actively encouraged to the younger generation and does not suffer from the stereotypical image that it has in other countries. Kids are welcome on the golf courses, which in turn leads to enthusiasm and inclusion. Within a climate like this there will always be some who are ready pursue it with a passion. So even though in terms of population we are small, we produce a good number of professional players.
GGMWhere do you go to relax and recharge?
Norén We have a summer house on the Swedish island of Gotland, this is a great place to go and get away from the stresses of life. It is perfect for spending quality time with my family. We have a lot of friends there who are not connected to golf, so it’s not such a big conversation point when we are socialising.
GGM And now you are a father, how does that affect your golf?
Norén Yes, it’s a wonderful experience. I find that I am more relaxed after becoming a father, you realise that there are far more important things in life, which I find helps centre me when playing competitions. My daughter Iris and my girlfriend Jennifer are the stability that my life needs.
This is a golfer who seems to have found his rhythm, both on and off the course. Who knows what will happen at the 2017 US Masters? But one thing is for sure; there is a very real Swedish contender in the mix this year.