We meet the talented identical twins who helped Denmark lift the Eisenhower Trophy for the first time last year before turning pro while still in their teens
Hojgaard Twins Q&A: ‘We Want To Play In The Ryder Cup Together’
In the last 20 years or so, Denmark has produced several players who have graced golf’s very biggest stages. Thomas Bjorn has had 15 European Tour wins and played in three Ryder Cups; Thorbjorn Olesen’s Ryder Cup debut in Paris last year culminated in the demolition of Jordan Spieth; and Lucas Bjerregaard has become a firm fixture in the world’s top 50.
Soren Kjeldsen and Soren Hansen have multiple European Tour wins to their names as does Anders Hansen, who famously beat Justin Rose in a playoff to win the 2007 BMW PGA Championship. In short, the country has now established a very firm footing in the world of top-level golf.
This is why there is considerable excitement surrounding the next generation of Danish talent – Nicolai and Rasmus Hojgaard, identical 18-year-old twins with big golf games.
In September 2018, the pair teamed up with John Axelsen to finally etch Denmark’s name on the Eisenhower Trophy at the World Amateur Team Championships after 24 years of trying. Victory was, in large part, down to the brothers’ final rounds of 66 and 67.
Nicolai had his first Major experience as an amateur in last year’s Open at Carnoustie, and both have now turned pro, making fast starts to their careers with Nicolai finishing runner-up to Sergio Garcia at the KLM Open in September and Rasmus winning his maiden European Tour title at the Mauritius Open.
Considering their talent and pedigree, the future of Danish golf looks brighter than ever.
GM’s Sam Tremlett met up with the pair at Tylney Park Golf Club to get their thoughts on playing and winning for their country and find out their dreams for the future.
GM: What was it like winning the Eisenhower Trophy and did you know how close to the lead you were coming down the stretch?
Nicolai: The day before, we talked about how to shoot a low score on the final day and our goal was for all three of us to be around three- or four-under in the last five holes so we could make a final push. Then, the coach told me I had to make two birdies on the last two holes and I managed to birdie 17 and 18!
Rasmus: Actually, he said just give yourself two birdie chances, but obviously Nicolai made those two birdies so that was huge.
GM: Were you pushing each other on the entire time?
Rasmus: After nine holes none of us were playing very well. I think we were two- or three-under, so it wasn’t that low, because we needed to shoot 12-, 13-, 14-under to win the tournament. But after, I think, 13 holes, Nicolai was four-under and I was too, so we had a good chance to make a final run.
GM: So you went aggressive towards the end, did you?
Rasmus: Yes, on the last couple of holes we went aggressive!
Nicolai: It was quite funny. I was standing on the 16th green watching Rasmus play the 15th, which is a par 5. He hit it on the green in two, so I was like, “Come on – let’s make a birdie!” He then three-putted. I was watching and thought, no way, because a birdie right now is so huge. That was a kick back for me, but he birdied 16 and 18 so he made up for it too!
GM: Did you joke about that afterwards?
Nicolai: Oh yes, for sure!
GM: What was it like to represent your country?
Rasmus: It’s always a pleasure and a nice feeling to represent your country. You are not just playing for yourself; you are playing for the whole nation so it makes it even more special. You want to give more and play better when you are in Danish colours.
GM: Thomas Bjorn tweeted about it afterwards. Was he in contact with you?
Rasmus: Yes, he texted us right afterwards saying awesome job and congratulations.
Nicolai: We’d talked with him the month before and he’d said our focus should be on the Eisenhower Trophy because that’s the biggest team event you can win. So it was quite fun that a month later he texted us again to say that it was very special that we had won.
GM: Do you have quite a close relationship with Thomas?
Nicolai: Yes, we’d talked a little bit, and he obviously wants to help us which is great. I think it was after The Open that we started talking with him and obviously the Made in Denmark event as well.
GM: Going back to when you first started, how and why did you get into golf?
Rasmus: When we were four years old, I think, our dad took us to the golf course and we kind of started playing golf from there.
GM: Did you fall in love with the game immediately?
Nicolai: When we started it was just for fun. Our dad and our mum were both playing golf so it was just a case of taking the kids to the golf course. We tried playing and it was quite fun, but we played football and handball and all the sports you can think of back then, so at that time we didn’t think of playing golf all the time.
GM: At what age did you realise there was a chance that you could become professional golfers?
Rasmus: I think we were around 12 or 13 years old. We could see that we were a bit better than average so I think from there on, we got a good coach and kind of built up a good relationship and were just improving every year and having some good results. Over the last couple of years we’ve been thinking of going the professional way and obviously this year was the year we decided to turn professional.
GM: Was it a joint decision – did you both want to turn pro at the same time?
Nicolai: It was a decision we all talked about and wanted to do together. At the start, it’s a new thing to turn pro – it’s way different to amateur golf so we wanted to practise together and travel together at the start, so that’s why we both turned pro at the same time.
GM: How did your 2019 schedule come about? Did you manage to secure some invites to events?
Rasmus: Through the Danish organisation we have channels to the Challenge Tour. They can give out invites to five players for the Challenge Tour and we are two of them, so we’ve got seven invites on the Challenge Tour each. We’re hoping to get a full Challenge Tour card for next year through our starts. That’s our main goal.
Nicolai: The organisation picked which tournaments we play. I started out at the end of April in the Turkish Airlines Challenge and finished 17th.
Rasmus: I played the next one in Spain and finished tied 2nd! We haven’t always been playing in the same tournaments this year, and it’s been a little bit weird to not be around your brother because we have been practising together for the last five years.
GM: You’ve both settled in to tour life well. Has it been an exciting experience or have you found it a little intimidating at times?
Nicolai: I’m just excited for what’s ahead. It was a big decision to turn professional and I got a bit nervous in the first tournament because it was a whole new thing. But at the moment I am just excited to be out playing on the Challenge Tour. I am not worried or intimidated by it – I just want to play.
GM: What was it like playing in The Open last year? Was it pretty nerve-racking on the first tee?
Nicolai: Oh yes, it was! It was quite fun because when we came on Monday, I went to the clubhouse to do all the things you need to do – sign in and stuff. I opened the door and the first two guys I saw in there were Sergio Garcia and Rory McIlroy talking to each other. I was standing in the door thinking, “This is so cool!” It was weird walking around in the clubhouse because it doesn’t feel right but it was fun anyway. And then standing on the range next to DJ, Spieth, Tiger, Rory and all those guys…
GM: Who did you play with?
Nicolai: I played with Webb Simpson and Si Woo Kim the first two rounds. Webb was a nice guy – we talked a lot out there. Si Woo Kim is a bit more focused but he’s actually quite fun as well.
GM: You’re obviously trying to win and get your cards for next year, but what do you think you can achieve in the rest of 2019?
Nicolai: Yes, obviously we want to try and get that first pro win, hopefully on the Challenge Tour. But I think, in my opinion, anything could happen going forwards!
GM: Looking further ahead, are the Olympics or the Ryder Cup on your radar at all?
Rasmus: Right now, the Olympics would be a no. With Thorbjorn Olesen and Lucas Bjerregaard high in the world rankings, it’s probably not realistic for us right now.
Nicolai: But one of our biggest goals is to play the Ryder Cup together – to follow in the footsteps of the Molinari brothers.
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