As Linn Grant left the course at Halmstad Golf Club in Tylösand, Sweden, she found herself swarmed by a group of young fans.
Clamoring for anything and everything in the Swede’s golf bag, they excitedly waved pens in the hopes of securing an autograph. Grant duly obliged, signing everything from hats to golf balls.
It was a buzz worthy of a landmark achievement: Grant had just become the first-ever female winner on the DP World Tour with her victory at the Scandinavian Mixed event on June 12.
And as if making history wasn’t enough, she did so in dominant fashion, cruising the 156-player field. A weekend-best eight-under 64 on the final day confirmed an emphatic win, with Grant’s 24-under par seeing her finish nine shots clear of runners up Marc Warren and fellow Swede Henrik Stenson, and 14 shots clear of the next female player, Gabriella Cowley.
The win was made all the sweeter by the fact that it was a victory at home – in all senses of the word. Boyfriend Pontus Samuelsson caddied, with friends and family supporting among an ecstatic Swedish crowd.
“The atmosphere there, I could feel that,” Grant told CNN Sport. “I felt that it was just because I was from there, but after sitting in the car on my way home, I saw social media calls, journalists reaching out – everything just grew … it’s a bit insane.”
Minjee Lee’s win at the US Women’s Open a week prior had seen the Australian scoop $1.8 million, the largest payout in women’s golf history. Yet Lee’s unprecedented earnings were dwarfed by the major-record $3.15 million taken home by England’s Matt Fitzpatrick for winning the men’s event just one week later.
With her historic win making worldwide headlines, Grant is optimistic her success will help the women’s game take another step forward.
“I think a lot of people can relate to women’s golf,” perhaps even more so than the men’s game, she said, because “they [men] hit so far and the courses are not long enough.”
“I hope it will have some sort of effect that people might look at it and see we are a bunch of players who are this good, hit the ball far enough, hit it close enough, hold the putts and score well.
“I just hope more people realize that. And then we look better and we’re nicer too!” Grant added with a laugh.
Having only turned 23 a week after the win, victory in Halmstad marked the latest peak in what has been a meteoric rise for Grant since turning professional in 2021.
Three wins in four months on the Ladies European Tour (LET) have helped rocket Grant to second in the rankings in The Race to Costa del Sol, a 28-tournament LET season set to crown a winner at the Andalucía Costa del Sol Open de España in November. Incredibly, she leads the chasing pack despite playing the fewest events of any of the top-nine scoring players on the Tour.
While some players struggle with the jump from amateur to professional, Grant has thrived.
“My last year as an amateur, whenever I dropped out of the zone of being able to win, it was almost like it wasn’t motivating anymore,” Grant said.
“The feeling that I’m playing for money now – that it’s my living – all of a sudden, I feel like it doesn’t matter [dropping out of the zone]. If I can just make it birdie on the last I can still earn more than if I didn’t.”
The only player besting Grant in The Race to Costa del Sol is childhood friend Maja Stark. Teammates on the Swedish national team from a young age and students at the same high school, the duo share a close bond.
“I always cheer her on and I hope she does the same for me, which I know she does,” Grant said.
“It’s nice to have someone there that knows the situation you’re in and to be able to talk to about things that other people either can’t get their head around or simply don’t understand.”
Not that their friendship has stopped Grant from declaring the desire to chase down and beat Stark to Spain as one of her key season goals.
With Johanna Gustavsson trailing Grant, an all-Swedish trio at the summit of The Race to Costa del Sol reflects the Nordic country’s dominance on the LET and the rising stock of golf in Sweden, which has already produced a legend in the sport.
In Annika Sorenstam, Grant has a towering role model. Sorenstam, co-founder of the Scandinavian Mixed event, forged one of the greatest careers in women’s golf history with 10 major triumphs and 72 LPGA tournament wins before her professional retirement in 2008.
Grant cites two reasons for the recent surge of top women’s players in the country: the investment and effort of the Swedish Golf Federation to grow the game and, paradoxically, the harsh Nordic climate.
As snowy conditions cut short the golfing season in the country, Swedish players must work extra hard to maximize training, with Grant putting “lost” practice time into other activities that will aid her game, such as the gym.
“We cannot play 12 months a year, which gives you a bit of thick skin,” she explained. “It’s zero degrees, you just have to go out there and hit wedges or whatever you need to practice on.”
With her historic victory in the Scandinavian Mixed event, it appears that attitude is paying off – and helping Grant in her mission to grow the sport and act as a role model, not just for women but for all who play the game.
“If that win can help anyone or just give someone a bit of extra motivation, I’m happy,” she said.