This is more than just a ski and golf championship, it is an opportunity to meet different nationalities and see Austria from its green valleys and lakes to the glaciers towering high above them. More about the lakes later!
Skiing and golf are quite an interesting combination. An Austrian ski legend, I interviewed a few years ago thought that he would not be able to do these sports simultaneously, as skiing was about explosion and golf required calmness. This was also to some extent backed up by some of the winners of these championships, who thought that skiing was physical and golf more about technique and feeling and being mentally strong. It is possible to make a mistake in skiing and for it to go relatively unnoticed, though a mistake in golf goes down on the scorecard.
There are some similarities between these two sports. In golf, a player makes a swing and ski turns are sometimes referred to as swings. It is a good idea to make these swings in both sports as smooth as possible, if you want to make the podium in these championships.
The ski race was in between a giant slalom and slalom; the elite skiers had times in seconds in the low thirties or less. Skiers with less racing experience or less recent racing experience tended to be in the forties or more. The golf comprises a round on each of the two 18 hole courses; one having a par of 73 and the other of 72; they are a tough test with virtually all the par 5 greens guarded by water; ponds and lakes also feature elsewhere and the only concession seems to be the absence of long par 4s. If your round is not going well, you can always admire the snow-capped peaks in the direction of the Kitzsteinhorn, where the race takes place. A young competitor must have found inspiration from somewhere with one of his rounds 14 over par and the other 2 over par. Likewise a Polish competitor had a round comprising 50 shots on the first nine holes and 38 on the back nine.
Most of the competitors seemed to have a preference for either skiing or golf. It is a good idea to be able to do both to a high standard if you want to feature at the prize giving. I did notice some of the ladies were quite adept at dancing on the podium. See the website for the event to get an idea of the competitors’ golf scores. The overall men’s winner Sam Maes, competing under the banner of Belgium, I understand came to live in Zell Am See at the age of 3, and competed in the recent PyeongChang Olympics. The overall women’s winner Eva Kozeluhova from the Czech Republic, has won the last two years. Away from the main competition are categories relating to age and also there are team events.
The fastest time in the skiing was by Austrian World Cup racer, Max Franz, who was pleased to add to his tally of medals away from World Cup ski racing, and found the time to give me some tips on ski racing.
There was no shortage of parental support or humour; according to a young competitor ‘parental support was limited to a parent pressing a button on the golf trolley and following him round the course!’ The catering staff at the golf centre were kept very busy all day. When asked how she managed to keep so calm, one waitress replied ‘I am an actress.’
The championship is about taking part in an international event, from the moving opening ceremony, competing on three days, through to the playing of the national anthems at the prize giving. If you think skiing and golf with all their differences and similarities are the two best sports in the world you need to be here.
There was no shortage of Austrian traditional dress in the opening ceremony and in the golf club house area, several women wore Dirndl dresses. At the prize giving, I asked one lady competitor what she thought about the event. She told me ‘to join in with the party and write about the event tomorrow.’ Well ‘tomorrow’, inspired by the Austrian national anthem, I was going to a Mozart concert in Salzburg. I wonder what he would have thought of ski/golf; maybe their link to music is rhythm. If you have it and can dance through the race course, not to mention on the podium, I will see you at next year’s event and if you need a bit more fluency, I will let you know Max Franz’s ski racing tips.
The above article was written by a competitor.