Swedish golfer Marcus Kinhult has elevated his game since winning two medals at the Youth Olympic Games (YOG) Nanjing 2014, with his performances in China proving to be a catalyst for a promising professional career.
The 22-year-old, who won individual silver and mixed team gold at the YOG Nanjing 2014, qualified for this season’s European Tour after finishing fifth in the second-tier Challenge Tour standings in 2017. He has since enjoyed several impressive results, including a third-place finish at February’s Qatar Masters, tied fifth at the prestigious French Open and a tie for 12th at the European Tour’s flagship tournament, the PGA Championship, in May.
In July, he qualified for his first-ever Major championship, taking to the fairways of Carnoustie, Scotland, in the 147th Open Championship alongside the likes of former world no.1 Jason Day. Opening rounds of 74 and 69 saw him make the cut for the weekend, when he shot 71 and 76 to eventually finish in a tie for 61st in the 156-man field. It was a highly commendable performance in his first Major championship, especially on the challenging Carnoustie links course.
Just four years earlier, Kinhult was battling fellow European Tour player Renato Paratore, of Italy, for the individual YOG title at Nanjing’s Zhongshan International Golf Club. The 54-hole tournament was ultimately decided on the 18th hole of the final round, with Paratore clinching a two-stroke victory. Kinhult came out on top in the mixed team event, however, as he partnered with Swedish team-mate Linnea Ström to win gold. After his experiences at the YOG, Kinhult now has aspirations of playing in the Olympic Games, but currently faces stiff competition from his top-ranked countrymen Alex Noren and Rio 2016 silver medallist Henrik Stenson.
Here, he tells olympic.org about his #YOGJourney, offers advice to prospective Youth Olympians and discusses the valuable experience gained playing at the 2018 Open Championship.
What it was like competing in your first major tournament at the Open Championship?
“It was awesome, really cool just to be there. To play the weekend was really nice – not the weekend I was hoping for, but it was a great week overall and a great experience for the future. It was really nice playing with Jason [Day] in the final round and I played some practice rounds with some top-20 guys in the world, so that was really cool too.”
How do you reflect on your experience at the YOG Nanjing 2014 and how has it benefited your golfing career?
“That experience was different from anything else. The golf tournament itself wasn’t that different from what we’re used to, but the whole Olympic experience – being in the Village and meeting all the athletes from different sports – was really cool. We actually had some time to support and watch the other Swedes competing in all other sports. It was more about that than the actual golf. It was obviously a lot of fun doing well in both the team and individual events, but the whole Olympic experience was awesome.”
Take the opportunity if you have the chance to go. It was one of the best experiences I had during my junior days. It is a once-in-a-lifetime experienceMarcus Kinhult Sweden
How do you look back at your battle down the homestretch of the final round against Renato Paratore?
“He was leading going into the back nine and I think he shot five-under on the back nine. I just tried to play my game and did it quite well, but he played better and deserved to win. I was still happy with my performance and winning a silver medal.”
What was it like winning a gold medal in the mixed team event?
“It was cool playing a different format from what we’re used to. We won in a play-off, so that was nerve-wracking. It was a lot of fun doing it together with Linnea [Ström]. We play individually all the time, so it was nice to be part of a team and it worked pretty well.”
What advice would you offer to the young athletes who will be competing in the YOG this year?
“It’s a great event and I think everyone should try and go, although it is quite hard in golf, with just one male and one female from every country. The team spirit and everything that goes on around the Games is worth a lot. Take the opportunity if you have the chance to go. It was one of the best experiences I had during my junior days. It is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”
Are the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 a goal for you, and if you do qualify, how much can you take from your YOG experience?
“I’m not thinking too much about Tokyo 2020 now, but it would be really nice to play in the Olympic Games sometime in the future. The fact that I’ve been in the Village [would help me] and I think they will try to set it up as similar as possible. Of course, it would be a good thing that I’ve done it before.”