(Reuters) - Having grown up as a ‘wannabe’ ice hockey player, Swedish golfer Jonas Blixt has been totally frustrated by the cancellation of the first two weeks of the 2012-13 National Hockey League (NHL) regular season.
While Blixt is riding a wave of exhilaration after winning his first PGA Tour title at the Frys.com Open in San Martin, California on Sunday, the NHL lockout has become an ugly black cloud on his personal horizon.
“I love ice hockey, it’s the greatest sport ever,” PGA Tour rookie Blixt told reporters after clinching victory by one shot after closing with a three-under-par 68 at CordeValle Golf Club.
“The lockout just kills me right now. I hope they make a deal soon.”
Last week, the NHL canceled the first two weeks of the regular season with no end in sight to the labor dispute with locked-out players.
The decision impacts 82 games that were scheduled from October 11-24 and marked the first time regular season action has been canceled since a lockout wiped out the entire 2004-05 season.
Blixt, who became the eighth Swedish player to win on the PGA Tour, had to give up on his own ice hockey future at the age of 18.
“I was a defender but I never really got big enough or good enough to play ice hockey,” the 28-year-old smiled. “Golf kind of suited me pretty well. I just kept on playing golf and try to make a career out of it.”
Blixt, who earned his PGA Tour card for this year by finishing fifth in the 2011 Web.com Tour money list, said his father, Hans Ove, had inspired his golf career.
“It’s all my dad,” the Swede added. “My dad loves the game. He’s the biggest grinder I know. He always wants to compete. The more pressure you put on him the better he plays.”
Blixt’s first memory of being on a golf course dates back to when he was aged just eight.
”My dad took me out and we played 27 holes,“ he recalled. ”My mom was furious afterwards. She was really nice to me that night, pampering me, but not very nice with my dad.
“Often we just kept on playing until we couldn’t see the ball. It was crazy. Dad didn’t want to go home; I didn’t want to go home.”
Asked how big golf’s profile was in his native Sweden, Blixt replied: ”Soccer is the most popular sport, and then ice hockey. Golf is like the third-most popular sport over there.
“If you’re a guy, you want to play hockey. It’s like baseball over here. The tough guys play hockey, you know, the guys with no teeth. All the girls, they play hockey,” he added with a broad grin.
Blixt’s victory on Sunday earned him a two-year exemption on the PGA Tour and a place in next year’s PGA Championship, the fourth and final major of the season.
Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes in Los Angeles; Editing by Frank Pingue