Chapel Hill Treehouse

A decidedly mixed bag of musings by andrew reynolds, professor of political science at UNC Chapel Hill, NC, USA

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Henrik Bjornstad, I presume?

Last Thursday I drove down to leafy Charlotte NC to see up close for the first time the object of my obsession, Mr Henrik Bjornstad, professional golfer, carpenter, Norwegian. The Quail Hollow Golf Club home of the Wachovia Open is a really lovely mix of lush green fairways, heavy woods and ponds. It was about 90 degrees in the shade and I'd smartly left my sun block back in the car in the park and ride a good 15 miles away.

Hendrik was teeing off at 1.50pm so at about 12.30pm I made my way to the driving range where golfers and their entourages were warming up. I found Henrik in the middle and stood behind him for about 10 minutes watching him power crisp irons to a green apparently miles away. Then I befriended Ola, a journalist from the main Norwegian newspaper VG whose fun job is to follow Henrik around to satiate the insatiable Norwegian desire for Henrik updates. Then thrill of thrills Henrik walked over to say hi and after a brief discussion with Ola in Norwegian (where I'm pretty sure I picked up the phrases "American fan" "blogger" "be careful, could be a stalker") the Bear-man himself shook my hand and thanked me for coming to see him. I then joined the Norwegian crew (initially four of us: Ola, the 'Team Norway Golf Coach' Jan-Erik, and a Norwegian tennis pro at a Charlotte Country Club) to walk Henrik around the course. It was *so* much fun and the Norwegians really made me feel like part of the pitt crew holding a backstage pass as part of the entourage.


Henrik and Jan-Erik http://www.vgb.no/2273/perma/59569

(credit: Ola Stenberg)

Henrik didn't have the greatest day scoring wise but in parts he hit the ball very nicely. He is incredibly focused on the course, showing that renown Norwegian stoicism that drove Thor Heyerdahl to naviate the globe in a tea-cup and their cross country snow-swushers to dominate all before them. He was level par on his front nine, hitting from tee to green solidly but not able to make any putts. Sadly he then let it slip on the second nine dropping 4 shots and shooting 76. He may have been somewhat distracted by the club assistant pro he was paired with who managed to hack his way around to a horrible 84 on the first day, and an amazing 88 the next day (frankly, with my 6 handicap, I could have given this guy a game).

Even though he didn't play so well it was still a delight to walk around and see Bjornstad play -- much better than following the little red man on the PGA's tourcast website. After signing my hat Henrik even had the class to apologise to me for the way he played at the end of the round...how often does Vijay or Sergio do that!? As I said, "Henrik, I am loyal...I'll be as supportive when you shoot 76 as when you shoot 59" - well it may not be strictly true, but you get my drift.

(Above: Apparently the 'best' pic Ola took of me at the tournament - if this is the 'best' I am hugely worried about the level of stress I am under).

Crucially, I have great new nuggets of information for the Bjornstad files.

1. His nicknames are 'littlebear' and 'uncle henka' (not clear which is to be used by non-family members)

2. Henrik has a webpage:

http://www.henrikbjornstad.no

and a blog!

http://www.vgb.no/2273/perma/59569/

(Yes, I realise its in Norwegian but I'm working on translation software)

and his own wikiepedia entry:

http://no.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henrik_Bj%C3%B8rnstad

3. If you can cope with the Norwegian there appears to be real time updates by Ola on the VG website

http://www.vg.no/pub/vgart.hbs?artid=115516

Next week Henrik is playing at the Byron Nelson Championship in Texas...lets hope after two missed cuts he can make one. I think by far the chief area for improvement is his putting. He really has great skill and distance from tee to green and even when he is slightly offline with his drives he can still usually muscle the ball out of the rough to the green. But his putting average of 1.78 per hole ranks his 110th on tour and you just get the feeling that his confidence on the green is not quite where it could be. My prediction is that as soon as uncle henka gets on a putting streak and feels like he's going to make those long putts he will start to do very well. We live in hope.

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