Blixt: 'Living a dream,' minus the skates
Wednesday, January 30, 2013
HONOLULU -- There is the sprawling, nine-room house with breathtaking views of the Pacific to validate his claim that “I am living a dream,” but more on Jonas Blixt’s stay in the windward town of Kailua later.
To appreciate where he has landed, it’s worth discussing the initial dream, the one that had him on ice, doing what all boys in Nassjo do.
“Hockey,” he said, “is everything from where I come from.”
His home in southern Sweden is a remote and rural area of 16,000 residents. If you grow up there and are male, you not only skate, you dream of taking that talent to the NHL.
“I love hockey,” Blixt said. “It is the best.”
If passion were enough, Blixt might have followed his only athletic idol, Peter Forsberg, into the elite. Unfortunately, “I just didn’t develop in hockey,” Blixt said. While he played summer golf, his friends and peers worked on their hockey. “They got better. I got worse.”
Which is OK, because there was a backup dream for the 16-year-old Blixt, and golf became all-consuming. School in the morning. Practice at lunch. More school, then home, dinner and more practice. And in the cold and wintry months? “We had indoor facilities,” Blixt said.
Hard to believe that as he hit balls indoor in Sweden, Blixt dreamed of a beachfront home on Oahu’s east coast, yet there he was the second week of January, playing host to his parents, Hans-ove and Lena, in a palatial manner.
But there is some substance to talk about first.
“He’s the best kid in the world to work for,” said Zak Williamson, who was going to give up the caddie racket when an acquaintance, former touring pro Henrik Bjornstad of Norway, asked if he would consider working for a young Swede whom he knew. “He said, ‘It may take a couple of years, but he’s a good player.’ ”
Bjornstad was right, because in an old-school kind of way, Blixt has indeed taken a few years to blossom, his three seasons on the then-Nationwide Tour a tribute to his learning skills. Against a backdrop of so many junior phenoms and “can’t-miss” talents, Blixt reminds that the answer is in the dirt.
“He was never a Rickie Fowler or a Tiger Woods or a Bud Cauley, one of those kids who was special and you knew they’d make it,” said swing coach Jorge Parada. “But he has a great work ethic, he isn’t afraid to work hard and he has a strong personality.”
Even on winter days in Sweden or at those times when he was not drawing much attention, Blixt had envisioned playing golf in America. “It’s where the best athletes are,” he said, but every dream needs a dash of good luck, and Blixt got it when the Swedish National Team was invited to play in an amateur tournament at the University of Tennessee.
Blixt became smitten with Tennessee, but when he finished second to Aron Price, Florida State was smitten with Blixt. Accepting the Seminoles’ scholarship offer was one of those life-altering decisions that you appreciate even more years later, thanks to FSU head coach Trey Jones.
“He got me to grow up,” Blixt said. “He got me to be on time, to take care of myself, to be a responsible human being.”
As the 2011 Nationwide Tour season faded, Blixt spent four months without a swing coach, determined that he needed to understand his swing. “I studied on my own.
I think too many players blame their swing coach. On my own, I could only blame myself,” he said.
He eventually settled on Parada, who works at the Tour Academy at TPC Sawgrass, not far from Blixt’s home in Jacksonville Beach, Fla., and the rapport has been remarkable. As a student, “I love how driven he is,” Parada said. As a person, the praise is more lavish: “He’s slightly shy, in reality, but he has a great balance in his life. A great person.”
Certainly, he has more financial security, given the $2,255,695 he earned in his rookie year, a good chunk of which came when he won the Frys.com Open. Despite missing nearly two months with a rib injury, Blixt was 34th on the money list. Not bad for a Nassjo hockey wannabe.
Oh, the beach estate? True happenstance, courtesy of a pro-am partner, Fritz Duda, who played with Blixt at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions. Clearly, the personable Swede made a favorable impression because Duda – a member of the Notre Dame Board of Trustees – was off to the BCS game in Miami and offered his home the next week during the Sony Open.
“I can’t believe it,” Blixt said.
Maybe not the house, but the PGA Tour dream.