A look at the career of charismatic Swede Jesper Parnevik: From bold fashion choices to Major near-misses, he’s one of golf’s most recognisable figures from the last 25 years.
Watching coverage of the PGA Tour it’s sometimes tough to distinguish one pro from another. Let’s face it, until the caption appears on the screen how may of us would instantly recognise William McGirt or Jim Herman? But, whether because of his upright stance and quick swing or his unique take on golfing fashion, Jesper Parnevik has always been one man who’s instantly identifiable.
From his early days on the European Tour when his incredible shot selections and eccentric take on life earned him the nickname “Spaceman” to more recent years when he’s showcased the groundbreaking styles of designer Johan Lindeberg and Puma golf, Parnevik has always bucked the trend and taken his inimitable personality onto the golf course. Skin-tight trousers, diamond patterned tank-tops, the flipped-peak baseball cap, even shirt and tie – Parnevik is famous for challenging golfing norms when it comes to his attire.
But, it’s not just fashion where Parnevik has an individual approach. The son of Swedish entertainer Bo Parnevik, Jesper was brought up to see the funny side of life and always encouraged to think laterally. He famously eats volcanic dust to purge his system, has had his blood analysed by radiation and his metal fillings replaced by ceramic ones to lower his mercury levels.
Jesper Parnevik swing sequence:
He’s also a keen bridge player and a self-confessed maths geek. He was once asked in an interview – “What is the biggest number you can write with two digits.” The Swede quickly replied, “Now that’s a trick question. It’s nine to the power nine.”
It’s ironic then, that Parnevik’s greatest disappointment as a player came as a result of not knowing the numbers.
At the climax of the 1994 Open Championship at Turnberry, Parnevik had earned a two-shot lead through 17 holes of his final round. But, when Nick Price birdied the 16th then holed an audacious eagle-putt at the 17th, the two were tied. Parnevik had elected not to look at the leaderboard on the 18th tee and, after hearing the roars from behind, was convinced he needed a birdie on the final hole. He went for the pin from a difficult position in the right rough, his approach came up short and he failed to get up and down. When Price made par at the hole he won the Claret Jug by a single shot and left an emotional Parnevik to consider what might have been.
The Swede had another great chance to win golf’s most coveted title in 1997. He held a two-shot lead coming into the final round at Royal Troon but struggled on the Sunday, closing with a 73. It might still have been enough to force a playoff had Justin Leonard not had a simply awesome day with the putter. The American needed just 25 putts to complete a closing 65 – good for a three-shot victory.
Parnevik’s most recent Open appearance in 2003 also ended in disappointment. Playing with Mark Roe in the third round, the pair failed to exchange scorecards on the first tee, as a result they signed for the wrong scores at the end of the round and were disqualified.
But, Parnevik’s playing record is not dominated by near misses. He’s won four times on the European Tour and five times on the PGA Tour, he spent 38-weeks in the World’s top-10 back in 2000/2001. He’s also made three appearances in the Ryder Cup – 1997, 1999 and 2002. He’s now playing on the Champions Tour and was tied third in last month’s Chubb Classic.
Throughout his career Parnevik has provided a breath of fresh air to the professional game. His idiosyncratic approach to life both on and off the fairways has endeared him to golf fans on either side of the Atlantic. He’s inspired a generation of young players to be more fashion conscious and has achieved more than most at the pinnacle of our sport.
ESSENTIALS Date of birth: March 7 1965 Place of birth: Stockholm, Sweden Career highlights: - Four titles on the European Tour: The Scottish Open of 1993, The Scandinavian Masters in 1995 and 1998 and the Lancôme Trophy in 1996. - Five titles on the PGA Tour: The 1998 Phoenix Open, the 1999 Greater Greensboro Classic, the Bob Hope Classic and Byron Nelson Classic in 2000 and the Honda Classic in 2001 - Runner-up in the Open Championships of 1994 and 1997 - Played in three Ryder Cups – 1997, 1999 and 2002 - Represented Sweden four times in the Alfred Dunhill Cup and twice in the World Cup.
Quote: “I once let a magician saw my head off.” Jesper Parnevik
Fergus is a golf obsessive and 1-handicapper. Growing up in the North East of Scotland, golf runs through his veins and his passion for the sport was bolstered during his time at St Andrews university studying history. He went on to earn a post graduate diploma from the London School of Journalism. Fergus has worked for Golf Monthly since 2004 and has written two books on the game; "Great Golf Debates" together with Jezz Ellwood of Golf Monthly and "The Ultimate Golf Book" together with Neil Tappin (also of Golf Monthly)... Fergus once shanked a ball from just over Granny Clark's Wynd on the 18th of the Old Course that struck the St Andrews Golf Club and rebounded into the Valley of Sin, from where he saved par. Who says there's no golfing god?
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