A match years in the making for Stenson
September 13, 2017
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
- Henrik Stenson and his wife, Emma, share a bond well beyond golf. (Hugo Boss)
As kids, Henrik Stenson and Emma Lofgren frequently played in the same junior golf tournaments. In fact, they both made the same Swedish national team one year.
But the team photo, resurrected by the couple years later, hardly foreshadows what was to come. The future husband and wife were sitting in opposite corners of the frame.
“It's kind of funny,’” Emma says. “We knew of each other, but we didn't really know each other. It was interesting to see it afterwards.”
She even remembers eating breakfast with her mother once at a hotel before a match play tournament. Henrik came over and asked if he could join them. Of course, mother and daughter said yes.
“When we went out to the parking lot and he took off in his BMW, my mom turned around and said, Emma, that is the guy for you,” she recalls.
Emma, however, was more embarrassed by her mother’s words than smitten – at least at the time.
“Mom, you're the biggest goofball,” Emma recalls saying. “That will never happen. Just let it go. You know how you are with your mom.”
The summer after her freshman year at South Carolina, though, things changed. One of Emma’s friends was dating one of Henrik’s buddies and the two found themselves at the same dinner party.
Casual dates, often with friends, as is the custom in Sweden, followed. Their first was to an amusement park. But Emma soon had to return to Columbia, South Carolina for her sophomore year, and the more than 4,500 miles between them was daunting for the budding relationship.
“This was 1997,” she recalls. “You didn’t have cell phones or Skype or anything like that. I just told him I would call when I got there.’
Emma was busy when she returned to USC, though. About two weeks later, armed with her international calling card, she found a phone booth and dialed Henrik’s number.
“He's like, what's going on? Why have you not called me?” Emma recalls.
Only later did she learn that while she was incommunicado Henrik had a bit of a meltdown at a team event back home.
“For some reason he wasn't really mentally there that week because I hadn't called him in two weeks,’ Emma says, adding that after he and his partner both hit balls out-of-bounds on the same hole, “I think he ditched his pull cart in a little pond.”
Their shared love of golf wasn’t the only attraction for the couple, though. Even when they were teenagers, Emma found Henrik, who is known to be a bit of a prankster, to be less superficial than many of the guys she dated.
“At that age when it's hormones and you're 17, 18, 19, it's all about looks and how you are,” she says. “He just kind of went much deeper than that. We had really good conversation. We had lots of stuff in common. It took me a while to be sure, of course, when you are that young. When you are that age, you shoot for the
good-looking guys or the exciting guys that are going to take you for a spin.
“I think I was kind of passed that stage in my life. I had too many bad experiences. He really interested me and still does because he's not like everybody else.”
For the next three years, Henrik came to Columbia as often as he could between tournaments to be with Emma. Puggy Blackmon, who coached the Gamecocks at the time, let Henrik practice with his team.
“He was with me for two or three weeks, and then he went off to Argentina and China to play events,” Emma remembers. “… I think it is the best setup for the life we live today.”
Emma had pro aspirations of her own, though, and even tried to qualify for the Ladies European Tour. When that didn’t work out, she got certified to teach, which she did in the summers. Winters often found her traveling to places like Australia and New Zealand where she would caddy for her husband.
“What I did was basically try to keep everything intact when it comes to the bag and keep the pace, and mostly just mentally try to keep him happy,” Emma says. “I stayed away from doing his yardage when I caddied as it would not have been great if I made a mistake with the numbers.
“So he did his stuff and I carried the bag in 99 percent humidity and 110 degrees in Malaysia.”
As Henrik progressed – he won three times in his first full season on the Challenge Tour – a professional caddie became a must. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t times when Emma, who can be found in her husband’s gallery whenever she travels with him, would like to get back inside the ropes.
“I could never do what they do when it comes to numbers and knowing the course, but sometimes I just wish I could jump into the caddie's head and just give my husband a little kick in the butt,” Emma says. “I know his body language so well. I wish I could sometimes be there, as well, to kind of just say the right things when I see that he needs something.
“I know as a wife he can really not fire me or be upset as much as he could with his caddie.”
The couple was together 10 years before they got married on New Year’s Eve in 2006. They were living in Dubai at the time, and visa issues prompted the wedding, a three-day affair for 70 guests with golf and parties that was planned in a mere three months.
“We never really had a down on one knee, I love you, do you want to marry me (moment),” Emma says. “It was kind of more, okay, this is what we need to do to make it work.
“We don't do much of the romance in our family, but it worked out pretty well anyway.”
Henrik and Emma, who split time between their homes in Florida and Sweden, now have three children. Henrik has been extraordinarily successful – winning the FedExCup in 2013 and the Open Championship three years later, closing with a 63 in a memorable duel with Phil Mickelson.
Henrik’s sixth PGA TOUR victory came just last month at the Wyndham Championship. He also has 11 on the European Tour and twice won the Race to Dubai. Emma says she’s excited to put the spoils of victory in their trophy case because she knows the sacrifice behind each win.
“I love the game of golf so much that I really have enjoyed our journey together,” she says.
“I go to the tournaments to watch him play golf and really enjoy the competition that he goes through. I always kind of get a kick out of it, as well. I enjoy as much as probably he does in that sense.
“So it's never been weird or awkward -- I've been his biggest supporter in that sense. As a golfer, I've probably walked most golf courses in the world and not played them. To have such a talent that he has and some of the guys on TOUR have, it's so rare.”
And of course, no one knows a TOUR player better than his wife. So now that you know a little more about this special couple, Emma gives us 18 things you might not know about the former FedExCup champ.
1. As a child Henrik loved counting money which was mostly earned from selling newspapers in the neighborhood on the weekends.
2. Henrik loves a good deal! Once he went on-line and ordered a bicycle from China. But the bank blocked the charge on our credit card because they thought it was fraud. So, he never got it – but that’s not a bad thing because the bike had to be assembled and if it had ever shown up at our house it would definitely still be in the box. :-)
3. Henrik loves saving things. He always tells me that you never know when it can come in handy. I try to convince him to move on, clean out and simplify but rarely he listens.
4. Technology is not his strength. I remind him when technology fails that the positives mostly outweigh the negatives.
5. Henrik is an animal lover. He would do anything to save or help an animal. When we’re in the car, he always slams the brake if an animal in in the road or darts in front if the car.
6. He loves candy! Especially Swedish candy. And it's all or nothing for H. Either he goes full out or totally stays away from it! Quite the addiction.
7. Henrik is a generous man. He always makes sure that he takes care of the people around him. Lots of times he puts others before himself which is something I love about him.
8. He is light sensitive. He always struggles in the sun with no glasses. I have plenty of bad pictures with him squinting from the sun!
9. Henrik never went to college. But he hung out with me during my college years at South Carolina and got to practice with the men's team at my school before turning pro at the end of 1998.
10. Henrik does not like to waste food in the fridge. Therefore, his leftover lunches can be quite the combo. :-)
11. Henrik has an amazing memory. Everything from golf shots to golf courses and of course, where I misplaced my stuff – thank goodness.
12. Henrik is great with numbers, so we rarely need a calculator.
13. Henrik values morals very highly. He stands by his word and very rarely changes something that has been planned or promised.
14. He is definitely not the romantic type but his sense of humor definitely makes up for it!
15. Planning ahead and staying organized – whether it’s with golf or projects on the side -- is important for Henrik.
16. He suffers from bad grass allergies. And that’s not great when you are a golfer!
17. Henrik never plays with the number 4 on his golf balls. He uses numbers 1, 2 and 3 for the first three days, then he goes back to 1s in the final round.
18. He is left-handed, left-footed and left-eye dominant but Henrik plays golf right-handed.