Niklas Lemke comes back from the brink

Andrew Redington/Getty Images

Niklas Lemke comes back from the brink

Euro Tour

Niklas Lemke comes back from the brink

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Former Arizona State star Niklas Lemke came close to quitting this crazy game. He’s glad he didn’t.

Lemke is in contention to win the $3.4 million Betfred British Masters. The 35-year-old Swede recorded eight straight birdies, one short of the European Tour record, in a second-round 64, 8 under, to move to 11-under par, just one shot off the lead held by England’s Matt Wallace.

The Gothenburg resident seemed set for a brilliant professional career when he was a Sun Devil. His 70.03 stroke average in the college game is third best in the school’s history to Paul Casey (69.87) and Phil Mickelson (69.95). As with so many before him, life in the pro game just hasn’t worked out since he turned pro in 2007. So far.

Sixth place at last year’s European Tour Qualifying School earned Lemke a full card for this season. It was his 10th attempt after nine failures. Lemke has spent most of his career on the European Challenge Tour. This is just his 37th European Tour start.

He hasn’t shown much promise this year, missing 7-of-10 cuts. He has two top-15 finishes, T-7 in the Alfred Dunhill Championship and T-12 in the Magical Kenya Open. He stands 122nd on the European Tour’s Race to Dubai, needing to finish inside the top 110 to have playing rights next year.

No wonder he came close to putting his sticks away forever.

Niklas Lemke of Sweden tees off the third hole during the 2019 Betfred British Masters. (Andrew Redington/Getty Images)

“Three years ago, I decided I was going to give it two years, and that was it,” Lemke admitted. “If I felt like I was getting better and still enjoying it then I was going to continue. We sat down and made a two-year plan. I made a little better commitment to what I said we were going to do.

“There’s kind of been some momentum since then. There are still ups and down but it feels like it’s going in the right direction. I had a really good finish on the Challenge Tour last year so my game’s been going in the right direction.”

As for what he would have done if it had been going in the wrong direction?

“Good question.”

There were no questions in his 64, mostly answers despite beginning his round at the 10th and bogeying the 11th. He then reeled off eight straight birdies from the 13th hole.

“I felt pretty calm and collected even after I missed that short putt on 11,” Lemke said. “I hit a good drive on 12 and just missed a birdie there and then basically just kept on doing what I was doing. Sometimes you get in one of those grooves where you can pretty much do whatever and it ends up being good.”

Another good 36 holes and Lemke will bless his luck he didn’t step away from golf.

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