DUBLIN, Ohio — As Viktor Hovland came to the Memorial Tournament presented by Workday’s flash interview area, he found out that Jakob Stavang Stubhaug was one of this year’s recipients of the Jack Nicklaus Award, he offered a grin, even though his play this week did not see him break 70.
Stubhaug is a Norwegian freshman hailing from Florø who plays for Keiser at the NAIA level and last month helped the program earn its first national championship, becoming the individual champion by besting Jack Dudeck in the first hole of a playoff.
As a freshman, Stubhaug still has a way to go in his collegiate career and a return trip to Muirfield Village is not out of the question as nine recipients went on to win the Nicklaus Award multiple times, including Mickelson himself from 1990-92.
Additionally, non-Division I winners have also found success as 2010 NJCAA recipient Abraham Ancer has been one of the more consistent players on the PGA TOUR and has also won once. 2010 NAIA recipient Justin Lower was in this week’s Memorial Tournament field. 2018 D-II winner John VanDerLaan and 2017 D-II winner Chandler Blanchet have found starts on the Korn Ferry Tour. 2004 D-II winner J.J. Jakovac is currently on the PGA TOUR as Colin Morikawa’s caddie.
Stubhaug earned several postseason awards including the NAIA Phil Mickelson Outstanding Freshman Award and First-Team PING All-America, won twice during the season, recorded 10 top-10 finishes and also recorded 20 rounds of par or better.
“It’s amazing how a lot of different countries in the world… when (Bernhard) Langer first came to this country, nobody played golf in Germany,” Jack Nicklaus said during Sunday morning’s awards ceremony. “When Seve (Ballesteros) came to this country, not very many Spaniards were playing. When Viktor, not many from Norway. That’s growing the game around the world and that’s a wonderful thing.”
Though Stubhaug stated he wants to model his game after Rory McIlroy, he could not deny the impact that Hovland has had back home in Norway.
“He’s had a big influence and he’s helped lift golf a lot lately,” he said. “It’s been a much more popular sport. Membership has risen drastically and now ordinary people in Norway know about golf, while they didn’t have any interest or know about it a few years ago. You meet some stranger in the street, and they know what’s going on about golf.”
Hovland was infamously back home in Norway last year playing a casual round of golf, when nearly 200 individuals followed him around, a sight that made him post a picture of his surrounding gallery to social media, which received interaction from around the golfing community.
“Obviously Norway we don’t have a lot of history in golf,” said Hovland. “For me and Kristoffer Ventura, we’ve only had one PGA TOUR player. It’s nice to see there are guys coming behind us… I didn’t think there would be that many people that would want to watch golf or talk about golf or play golf. It’s been cool to see the reaction back home and obviously that is one of the few good things about COVID as more and more people back home are playing.”
Now with the COVID-19 pandemic, golf has become much more commonplace in Norway. Hovland believes that there is no longer an excuse to play golf, especially as far as expenses are concerned.
The hope now is that Stubhaug’s play and recognition allow the next generation of Norwegian golfers to receive opportunities to compete at the highest levels and do so successfully.
“There are a decent amount of golf courses around and you can get membership for fairly cheap I would say,” Hovland said. “If you want I think there’s not too many things holding you back from wanting to play.”