Henrik Norlander Makes Good on Vast Potential With First Career Win at Olde Sycamore
By Stewart Moore
Charlotte, NC – Sweden’s Henrik Norlander entered his rookie season on the eGolf Tour as one of the top college players from 2008 through 2011, riding a wave of team success as a member of Augusta State’s back-to-back NCAA Championship teams in 2010-2011. At this week’s Olde Sycamore Open, Norlander broke through in the game’s individual ranks, posting rounds of 69-65-66—200 (16-under) for his first eGolf Tour title, and the event’s $13,000 first-place prize.
The Olde Sycamore Open was the 21st event of the 2012 eGolf Tour season and was contested this week at Olde Sycamore Golf Club in Charlotte, NC.
Norlander entered Friday’s final round in a three-way tie for the lead with Dustin Bray of Asheboro, NC and Jonathon Krick of Phoenix, AZ on the heels of a 69-65—134 (10-under) start to his week. Looking to make an early move, the fast-paced Norlander birdied the docile par-5 first to reach 11-under, but quickly found himself trailing as leading money winner Drew Weaver of High Point, NC birdied Nos. 1 through 3 to seize the lead at 12-under par.
Pars on Nos. 2 and 3 kept Norlander at 1-under for the day, but it was at that point that the former Jaguar star took control of the event. A quartet of birdies on Nos. 4, 5, 6 and 7 catapulted him to 5-under for the day and 15-under for the week – at the time, two shots ahead of the field.
“I hit a great tee shot on No. 4 to make birdie there, then had some good birdies at Nos. 5 and 6 to follow that one up,” said Norlander, 25. “On the seventh, I pulled my tee shot and had to hit about a 50-yard hook just to get over the pond. After that, I hit a good 56-degree wedge in there and made another birdie.”
On the back nine, Norlander extended his lead with a birdie at the par-4 11th that took him to 16-under, then followed it up with a birdie at the par-3 14th to move into a commanding four-shot lead at 17-under for the event.
“I was looking at leaderboards, but my playing partners were struggling, so I never had a good feel for how the field was playing,” he said. “I felt like I would be hard to catch once I got to 17-under.”
At that point, his maiden eGolf Tour title was a mere formality. With little-to-no charge being made by the field, Norlander cruised to the house following the birdie at No. 14. Pars on Nos. 14 through 17 brought the leader to the tee of the par-5 18th, where a pulled tee shot led to a closing bogey on an otherwise reachable hole. The bogey left Norlander with a final-round 66 and a 16-under 200 total, good for his first professional win.
The win moved the Danderyd, Sweden native up to No. 17 on the 2012 eGolf Tour money list with single-season earnings of $38,108. Norlander’s position has him primed to capitalize on the tour’s annual Q-School bonus, paid to the top 20 members on the money list following the NorthStone Open in two weeks. The bonus covers PGA TOUR Q-School entry, at an estimated value of $4,500 per player.
“I think this gets me pretty close to locking up that Q-School bonus, which is big,” said Norlander. “I’m planning to play the next event though, just in case.”
Norlander’s college career at Augusta State could have been an NCAA advertisement for how dreams really do come true. As a three-time “All America” selection at the school best known for its famous neighbor course down the road, Norlander starred on back-to-back national championship teams in 2010 and 2011. A key member of both of those squads, he was often slotted in at the No. 1 or No. 2 position on the team, alternating with 2012 PGA TOUR Monday qualifier phenom Patrick Reed.
The beauty of both titles was that the Jaguars – even in their 2011 title defense – were heavy underdogs in the championship match, having to best the Oklahoma State Cowboys in 2010, and the Georgia Bulldogs in 2011, both times as the No. 7 seed. The latter of the two, facing off against their far-more-famous, in-state foes from Athens, GA, was particularly sweet for Norlander, as well as his teammates.
“That was a lot of fun. Those guys are good guys, but it was great to get a win from them,” he said. “The first win was probably my best memory though, because I played very well, and we beat Oklahoma State on their home course, which was awesome.”
Common thought around Augusta State was that Norlander was arguably the most talented player on the team’s already-talent-rich roster. That sentiment was backed up on Friday afternoon when former teammate, and final-round competitor, Mitch Krywulycz, first learned of Norlander’s front-nine surge.
“That guy is unreal. I have no idea why he hasn’t won yet on this tour,” said Krywulycz. “He is so good, he should contend at every event.”
With one win under his wing, it could be the start of big things for Norlander. Q-School is right around the corner, and he looks ready to move up.
Runner-up honors went to Gator Todd of St. Simons Island, GA, who posted rounds of 67-68-67—202 to finish at 14-under par, two shots behind Norlander.
Todd began his final round one shot behind the leaders at 9-under 135. Playing in the day’s penultimate threesome alongside Weaver and six-time tour winner Frank Adams III, the former University of Alabama standout parlayed three birdies and six pars on his opening nine into a 3-under 33.
At 12-under heading to the back nine, and trailing Norlander by three at the time, Todd’s posted his lone hiccup of the round with a bogey at 13 to fall back to 11-under par. Bounce back birdies on 14 and 15 took him to 13-under, while a closing birdie at the last finished off a final-round 67, a 14-under total, and his second runner-up of the year.
The $7,500 payday moved Todd to No. 23 on the tour’s money list with $34,060 in earnings.
Todd, the son of former Alabama and New York Jets quarterback Richard Todd, has had somewhat of an up-and-down year on the eGolf Tour, notching three top-5 finishes in and around nine missed cuts. The former Crimson Tide star posted his first runner-up of the year at the Oldfield Open in February, later adding a T4 at the Grand Harbor Open to his resume in August.
The round of the day came from Josh Persons of Fargo, ND. After waking up sick and with a suspect chance of finishing 18 holes, the former University of Minnesota standout roared into early contention with a final-round 63 to post a 13-under 203 total in the clubhouse, and a solo-third-place finish on the week.
Persons’ round began in subtle fashion with one birdie in his first four holes, but he soon made up for it with four birdies over his next five holes to turn at 5-under 31 and 9-under for the week.
A weakened Persons asked a volunteer to bring a sandwich to him on the 10th tee, then used the added fuel to notch birdies at 11 and 12 to reach 11-under par. A birdie at the 15th gave way to a closing birdie at the 18th, which in turn left the 28-year-old with a 9-under 63 and the clubhouse lead for a brief period.
The third-place finish was worth $6,200 to Persons, and marked his first top-10 in 16 career starts on the eGolf Tour.
Thanks to a final-round 64, Peter Malnati of Dandridge, TN finished in solo-fourth place at 12-under 204, earning $5,200 on the week. The top-5 effort, his sixth of the year, moved Malnati up to No. 5 on the money list with earnings of $61,672.
• The tour would like to thank general manager Ted Staats and head golf professional Barry Wilkins for their help in organizing this week’s event. Thank you as well to the members of Olde Sycamore for allowing the tour to use your golf course and facility for the week.
• The tour will take next week off before returning to action on October 9-11 for the NorthStone Open, to be conducted at NorthStone Country Club in Huntersville, NC.