Wishes Can Come True

It was at the 2010 Scandinavian Masters, at Bro Hof Golf Club, just outside of Stockholm. It was held the week after the British Open hoping that some stars would spend two weeks in North Europe and play the Swedish event. Louis Oosthuizen, the 2010 Open Champion, did play that year. He already made the commitment.

David Lingmerth presented the Memorial winners trophy by founder, Jack Nicklaus.It was late in the afternoon on Tuesday of the championship week. The course was getting quiet and the fairways had cleared of fans watching the players practicing. The players were returning to their accommodations to rest up for Wednesday’s long day of the Pro/Am.

I was cutting over fairways to get back to the clubhouse when a lone player and his caddy came walking down the first fairway. Most players play with friends during practice rounds but David Lingmerth and a buddy carrying his bag, were by themselves.

I met David a few weeks before when he was competing for Sweden in the European Team Championship. Sweden had made it to the finals, but ran out of gas on the final day and came in second to the team from England.

Lingmerth didn’t have his best weekend, finishing at four over. Watching him on that final day, I saw a young man determined to finish the best that he could. With his jaw set and a physique built for hockey (which he played), if he had been wearing a helmet, he would have pulled the chin strap tighter and stepped it up a notch.

Last week, I was talking about David with a colleague. The colleague offered that David was the most “Americanized” of the Swedish professional golfers. Coming from the small Swedish town of Tranås, David was probably introduced to the USA by his uncle, Goran Lingmerth.

Goran was the place kicker for the Northern Arizona University football team. He still holds the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision record for single-game field goals (8) and points scored in a game (24). Goran was placed into the NAU Athletics Hall of Fame in 1996.

Goran Lingmerth got to know members of the Solheim Family, who owned PING. It resulted in a job offer and a life in golf to this day.

Because of his career in the golf industry, Lingmerth had the opportunity to instill the game of golf in his young nephew, David. They would play golf during summer trips to Sweden and, as Goran was the PING rep to the LPGA, hit balls at Florida country clubs with LPGA golfers on trips to the states.

“You could tell he had it going mentally at an early age,” said Lingmerth of his 10-year old nephew. “He was mentally tough and had a beautiful swing.”

David’s game developed over the years. He played for the Swedish National Team and played in the President’s Cup. When it came time to seek out opportunities in college, Goran helped David get a scholarship at the University of West Florida, where he was an All-American and won a tournament as a freshman. His breakout season led to a transfer to Arkansas, a runner-up NCAA finish, and, three years later, a chance at a pro career.

David played on the Nationwide Tour in 2011 and just missed his PGA TOUR card by one stroke at the Nationwide Championship. In 2012, he made progress by winning his first event and earning a PGA Tour card by his position on the money list.

David, in his second career start on the PGA Tour, finished as a joint runner-up at the Humana Challenge after losing in a three-man playoff. Shooting a 10-under-par round of 62 in the final round to get into the playoff, he was eliminated at the first extra hole after finding the water with his second shot. At the 2013 Players Championship, David led in the third round, finishing T2, two strokes behind Tiger Woods. A sign of Lingmerth’s mental toughness was at the 2015 Memorial Tournament. Again, David was in a playoff to win Jack Nicklaus’ prestigious event. David beat Justin Rose in the third playoff hole to earn his first PGA Tour win.

On that fairway in 2010, David and I said a few friendly words to one another and I wished him luck in the Scandinavian Open and he walked away to continue his practice round. I watched them stride off alone thinking, maybe, my good luck wish really was for David in his attempt to be a professional golfer. I knew it would be hard for the rookie. No tour friends, no sponsors and a formidable road ahead. We all know that many have tried but few have succeeded.

This weekend, in winning the 2015 Memorial, it seems my good luck wish for David is coming true.