Korn Ferry Tour

The puck stops here: David Lingmerth gives up hockey in bid to revive his PGA Tour career


Jared C. Tilton

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Two years ago, in the midst of competition, David Lingmerth fractured his left kneecap, but he didn’t realize it right away. A hockey player growing up, and still one at heart, he tried to shake it off. He kept playing golf. He sucked it up.

“I thought maybe it was just some inflammation or maybe a torn tendon, but it never went away, so I had them take another look at it, and it was fractured,” the native Swede explained. “That explains a lot about what’s going on.”

Lingmerth, affable, approachable and about the most even-keeled player you’ll meet, just completed an opening even-par 71 Thursday at the Ohio State Scarlet Course in the first round of the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Championship. He rallied with two late birdies, but he knows that even pars aren’t particularly helpful on the Korn Ferry Tour.

Indeed, the usually recalcitrant Scarlet Course was softened by rain overnight, and it was gettable—and subsequently gotten by plenty of guys hopeful of reaching the PGA Tour via this second of three Korn Ferry Tour Finals events.

A compact and solidly built 5 feet 7, Lingmerth has been dealing with injuries since he herniated two discs in his neck in 2017. He also fought a bout of tendinitis in his right arm and more recently he tweaked his left wrist. Being banged up has taken its toll on his game, which is why he finds himself back at this Finals event for the third time since he lost his PGA Tour card in 2018.

Not that he minds Ohio’s capital city. His only PGA Tour title came in the 2015 Memorial Tournament at nearby Muirfield Village Golf Club. Lingmerth broke through in style by defeating former U.S. Open champion and 2010 Memorial winner Justin Rose in a playoff. After the winner’s press conference, Lingmerth got tournament host Jack Nicklaus to say hello to Lingmerth’s father in Sweden via Facetime.

Then the injuries came. Injuries rob a player of the ability to practice. And it forces changes to his swing, whether he’s aware of it or not. Bad habits become faults. And it’s just a constant struggle after that to either find that old swing or build a new one.

“I’ve had to battle through injuries, which really wasn’t the way to go,” said Lingmerth, 34. “When they first arose, I had never really been hurt before, so I didn't take the time off. I tried to play through it and, you know, got into some bad habits. And so I've been really working hard to get my way back where I need to be and gain that confidence back.

“It’s a crazy game. It drives you crazy.”

Bouncing between the PGA Tour and Korn Ferry Tour this season, Lingmerth this week is playing in his 30th event, with a T-11 finish on each tour his best finish. But the clutch effort of the year came two weeks ago at the Wyndham Championship. He shot a seven-under 64 at Bermuda Run C.C. in North Carolina to win one of the four spots in Monday qualifying. Then he played well enough, including a closing three-under 67, at Sedgefield C.C. to finish T-37 in the final regular season event on the PGA Tour.

That was a big deal. Lingmerth was 205th in FedEx Cup points going into the week. He gained six places to end the season 199th. Players ranked 126-200 in the standings qualified for the Korn Ferry Tour Finals.

Hanging on by his fingernails.

“Best tie for 37th I’ve ever had,” said Lingmerth, ranked 635th in the world, who didn’t know exactly where he needed to finish at Wyndham to keep his season alive. “Yeah, it was important. I played pretty well. But, you know, I’m the type of player who just keeps his head down and tries to do the best I can and not worry about what you have to shoot or what place you’re in. I always think that if I play like I know I can, it won’t matter.”

What does matter to Lingmerth is returning to form. He has two young sons at home, and, he said, “I want to show them that I can do this.”

It helps that he is ready to show a little more discipline, too. That knee injury occurred during a pick-up ice hockey game with his buddies. He collided with a teammate and ended up in a heap on the ice. Then he got up and kept playing. Bad decision in retrospect.

“I enjoy what I do, that competition and the grind, so the hockey, I’ve kind of had to stop,” he said with a sheepish grin. “I love playing [hockey]. It’s too much fun. It’s hard to stay away. But now I've learned a little bit of a lesson there, too. I have a long career ahead of me, and I’m going to go at it hard and give it my all to show that I can play the way I know I can.”

No more hockey right now for David Lingmerth, but he won’t give up that hockey mentality. He might be banged up, both physically and mentally, but he’s going to shrug it off.