This past Sunday, Viktor Hovland became the first Norwegian to win the U.S. Amateur Championship. He defeated Devon Bling 6 and 5 to secure the victory to cap off what was an incredibly dominant week. No one came even close to defeating Hovland in the match play portion of the event, as he won 7 and 6 in both the round of 16 as well as the quarterfinals, and won 43 of 103 holes throughout his six matches. His lopsided victory at Pebble Beach is not rare, as David Gossett defeated Sung Yoon Kim 9 and 8 in 1999, and the great Jack Nicklaus topped H. Dudley Wysong Jr. 8 and 6 in 1961.
Hovland is a junior at the Oklahoma State University and is the fifth-ranked amateur in the world. But, he had not garnered much success since he left Norway. Until Sunday, his only state-side victory came at the Valspar Collegiate in the spring of this year. A clearly emotional Hovland said he was “lost for words” after Sunday’s victory.
Norwegians are not particularly known for their talent on the golf course. Much of that is due to having to fend off the severe winters of Norway, where the lows are many times in the negatives. True golf practice can be limited to about seven months out of the year. Although Suzann Petterson has had quite the successful LPGA Tour career, there are only six men ranked inside the top 1,000 in the world that hail from Norway. With there being no very successful Norwegian male golfers, Hovland did not have very many role models in the golf world as a child. He stated, “it would be sweet to kind of be the front man for Norway,” hoping to inspire a young group of Norwegians to take up the game he loves so dearly.
Coming into college, he was not listed as a top-tier recruit. He made an impression on some division one schools but was most wanted at Oklahoma State. Alan Bratton, head golf coach at OSU, saw something in Hovland that others did not, and decided to take a chance on the kid that obviously paid off in the long run. Bratton stated, “He was the only guy I wanted” and offered no scholarships to any other students in 2016.
With this victory, Hovland has secured spots in both the 2019 U.S. Open and the Open Championship. He will also likely receive an invitation to next year’s Masters Tournament and will most likely gain many sponsors exemptions.
His historic victory is also expected to ignite not just the young people of Norway, but young golfers all around the world. Viktor Hovland shows that any young golfer can accomplish their dreams with just a little extra effort.