Tom Clarke meets Sweden’s David Lingmerth, who has lofty ambitions for the years ahead, starting with a Gold Medal in Rio
For a European player who is in the world’s top 50, David Lingmerth is probably not one of the most recognisable to British audiences. It’s a different story across the pond, however, where he has been making huge strides in recent years. With an action-packed end to the summer coming up, the diminutive Swede has set his sights on a strong finish, with more tour wins, representing his country at the Olympics and even a Ryder Cup berth on his radar.
Born in Tranas in Sweden in 1987, his life has taken a few twists in the intervening years. Having started playing golf seriously at the age of 12 and enjoying some decent success in his homeland, he opted for a change of scenery. On the advice of his uncle, who was an American Football kicker in college and had a short pro career in the NFL, he took the plunge himself and moved to the States.
“By the time high school was over with I didn’t feel like I was ready to turn pro yet, so I decided to try and get a scholarship at a college in the US and keep working on my game for a few more years,” he says.
At first, he played at the University of West Florida for a season before transferring to the University of Arkansas, where things really started to happen.
“It was a great experience,” he recalls. “I was able to practise the way I wanted to and play in really tough competitions. I learned how to play golf on all types of courses in different areas of the country.”
Lingmerth was also able to use his uncle’s experience of working as a Ping golf rep to help him.
“My uncle gave me a set of Ping i3 clubs when I was about 12,” he continues. “I had been playing since I was nine with just a junior set. I did quite well with the i3s and won the Swedish Championship for Boys when I was 15. Ping has been part of the journey the whole way. They have looked after me so well. I have played Ping clubs for 16 years now, and although I was talented I was not the top tier, so I am thankful for what they did to help over those first years.”
Lingmerth turned pro in 2010 and had two seasons on the Web.com Tour before earning his PGA Tour card. However, his real breakthrough came in 2015, when he beat Justin Rose in a play-off to win the Memorial Tournament at Muirfield Village – Jack Nicklaus’ event. That elevated him to golf’s top table and had people sitting up and taking notice on both sides of the Atlantic.
“I had already finished second a couple of times on tour, so I thought my game should have been good enough to win,” he recalls. “However, that is easier said than done and to get that win was such relief. I had worked very hard for a very long time to get to that point, and to finally get a win was an incredible feeling. While I was actually doing it I had this incredible focus which is really hard to describe. I wasn’t thinking ‘this is The Memorial, I will have to shake Jack’s hand’ or whatever – all of that just came with it. In hindsight, it was just so cool to win that one with the legend there.”
So, for a Swede who has moved to America, how big is the Olympics? Well, refreshingly, Lingmerth is very much looking forward to making an Olympic bow and representing his beloved Sweden.
“It is something you dream about doing as an athlete,” he says. “Walking into the stadium in the opening ceremony and being a part of Team Sweden with all the other incredible athletes, I just think it is going to be an awesome experience. We play all these amazing tournaments on the PGA Tour and they are all special in their own way, but Rio is just going to be on another level.”
But what does the future hold for Lingmerth? Gold Medal or not, how far can he go in the game? Unsurprisingly, he has his feet on the ground but his eyes set firmly on the possibilities ahead.
“I have always been a dreamer and I still dream really big. I want to win Major Championships, I want to be part of Ryder Cups, I want to experience it all. It is going to take a lot of work to get there, but I feel it is attainable and every day I am getting more and more comfortable living this life and playing in these big tournaments,” he adds. “My career has always been consistent, but I have had to work my way up every step and I am still doing that. I hope in five years I will have taken several more steps. I want to be a solid player every week and contending for and winning a few tournaments a year.”
I for one will be watching his steady climb to the top with interest. I have a feeling he might just get there.