One of the few people who didn’t seem surprised that young golfer Kristoffer Reitan has qualified to play in the US Open is Reitan himself. His historic qualification makes him the first Norwegian man to ever make it into one of the biggest golf tournaments of them all.
“This was absolutely unexpected!” Øyvind Rojahn, top athletics chief for the Norwegian golfing federation, Golfforbundet, exclaimed to state broadcaster NRK on Tuesday. “I knew he had the capacity, but we couldn’t expect that he would qualify for the US Open this year, no.”
Reitan isn’t the highest-ranked golfer among Norwegian men. That honour goes to Viktor Hovland, in 7th place, while the 20-year-old Reitan is number 32 in the world rankings for amateurs.
“Reitan has shown steady and fine development for many years and has been doing very well lately,” Rojahn said, “but he isn’t ranked as the best Norwegian in world ratings as of today.”
Everything clicked, however, for Reitan during what NRK called a “fantastic” qualifying round outside London on Monday evening, when the bulletin came that for the first time in history, a Norwegian man would play in the US Open. “I didn’t even know that he was playing in the qualifier,” said Per Haugsrud, a former pro golfer who follows golf closely as an expert commentator for Eurosport. Haugsrud told NRK that he got the message from the brother of Norway’s veteran golf star Suzann Pettersen. “I was a bit stunned.”
Reitan, son of an heir to Norway’s REMA 1000 grocery store chain, seemed a bit stunned as well when contacted by NRK: “Qualifying for my first major … I don’t know which words I should use, but it feels incredibly special.”
“I’m not surprise that I managed it,” he continued. “I knew I had the game in me to be able to qualify. That I actually managed to deliver what I wanted is a very nice feeling.”
Magazine Norsk Golf reported that it was only half-a-year ago that Reitan set college studies aside to concentrate fully on golf. That’s yielded results, with Reitan delivering three top-10 placements in major amateur tournaments in Spain where he currently lives.
Reitan’s coach, Marcus Eidelöf, told Norsk Golf that Reitan’s spot in the US Open is well-deserved. “This is the payback for all his hard work in Spain,” Eidelöf said. “He has trained so hard, and at times it was so demanding. Then it’s incredibly inspiring that he gets this now.”
The US Open starts next Thursday. In the meantime, Reitan was on his way to Austria to play in his first tournament on the European tour, so there was no time to celebrate. “We’ll do that in a few weeks,” Reitan told NRK.