The 3M Championship might be a golf event on what some call the senior tour, but this isn’t a collection of guys wearing pilled sweaters, corduroy pants and loafers. A growing number of players on the 50-and-over circuit speak of a commitment to fitness in order to remain competitive. The result? More players show up to tournaments trim in flashy golf shirts.
Maybe they knew Jesper Parnevik was on the way.
Built like a 2-iron, Parnevik has prided himself on slim-fitting eccentric apparel since his early days on the European Tour before joining the PGA Tour in the 1990s, from his trademark flip-billed cap down to skintight slacks.
“The first time I wore them I could not even bend down to pick up the ball out of the hole,” said Parnevik, now 51. “People were really frowning on that kind of stuff.”
Parnevik’s play backed up his style. The Swede, making his 3M debut this week in Blaine, was a three-time Ryder Cup participant for Europe (in 1997, 1999 and 2002) and has seven top 10s in majors, including a pair of runner-up finishes in the British Open (1994 and 1997).
Before injuries plagued his career after turning 40 in 2005, Parnevik got as high as No. 7 on the World Golf Rankings. That was the top mark for a Swedish male golfer until Henrik Stenson surpassed it in 2007.
Stenson finally broke through and won Sweden’s first major last month with a dominant performance in the British Open at Royal Troon, the site of Parnevik’s second runner-up finish. Stenson’s Sunday head-to-head duel with Phil Mickelson had the entire golf world watching.
Parnevik was in flight when Stenson wrapped up his final-round 63 but immediately thumbed out a congratulatory tweet when he landed.
Parnevik still beams two weeks later when asked about his countryman’s breakthrough.
“It’s been big for Sweden, period,” Parnevik said, noting the strength of women’s golf in the past with a nod to Annika Sorenstam’s 10 LPGA majors. “I was close many times. But this was something we needed right now in Sweden for the new generation. Golf right now … is not the first sport they try out.”
While good for the kids back home, Stenson’s victory put a charge into Parnevik as well.
Despite spending most of the summer in his homeland visiting family and “hitting yellow Pinnacles off a mat maybe twice,” Parnevik was a shot off the lead entering the weekend at the Senior British Open a week after Stenson’s triumph.
He faded to an 18th-place finish but said Wednesday that Stenson was an inspiration.
“When you see the way [Stenson] played, it brings a lot of memories back and you want to do something similar,” he said. “He’s doing everything the right way. When he gets everything going, he can win every week.”
Parnevik’s lone victory on the Champions Tour came earlier this season in the Insperity Invitational near Dallas. He wore a form-fitting white polo shirt and hot pink pants for the final round, as if to announce he is back to his old ways.
He joked that he packed sweaters for the trip to Minnesota, but don’t be surprised if he pulls out some neon attire for the weekend.
“It’s good to have some fun,” he said.