Austrian golfer Matthias Schwab might not be a household name just yet – but he’s ‘hopefully trending in the right way’. The 25-year-old ended last season on a high, recording three huge top fives en route to finishing 17th on the lucrative Race to Dubai.
And that’s where the Vanderbilt graduate is headed in the New Year, as the European Tour’s ‘desert swing’ kick-starts the golf season. Before then, he’s back home in his icy homeland hitting balls on a simulator. We grabbed a word before he got snowed in…
RSNG Austria is well known for its winter sports. How did you end up playing golf?
MATTHIAS SCHWAB, PRO GOLFER
‘Through my parents. My dad is a big golfer himself. He’s been a four handicap the past 20 years. He took my younger brother and me to the golf course quite early. I was five and my brother was four.’
RSNG So, you weren’t tempted by the ski slopes?
MS ‘I used to ski a lot growing up. I started when I was three, but I realised pretty soon that I wasn’t really good enough at it. I quit quite early, maybe 11 or 12. It wasn’t as much fun as playing golf, or maybe tennis and soccer.’
‘One of my heroes was Austrian skier Hermann Maier. He was a hero for a lot of us in Austria. In golf, Bernhard Langer was a hero, but I didn’t really have that many idols growing up.’
‘Skiing had parts to it that I didn’t really like. It was cold and it’s a pretty rough sport. I guess I’m more delicate. Also injury; it’s really risky. Overall, the golf package was much more appealing for me.’
‘Bernhard Langer was a hero, but I didn’t really have that many idols growing up’
RSNG You went to Vanderbilt University in America. How did that prepare you for life as a pro golfer?
MS ‘Looking back, it was a good thing to do because it taught me how to look after myself. I was pretty much on my own. I didn’t know many people and I didn’t really know the language that well. I just kind of had to adapt and figure it out myself, so that was one of the positive things that I learnt.’
‘The competition at college level was always very good. A bunch of the guys that I used to play with are also on either the European Tour or PGA Tour now, so that’s nice to see.’
RSNG You were a three-time All American? Where do you rank this accolade?
MS ‘It’s a nice thing to be able to say about yourself but I don’t think it really changes much, especially now looking back. I didn’t get a prize for it. You might get better contracts early on but that’s about it. It doesn’t really do much for you. It’s nice to have, but I don’t really take too much pride in stuff like that.’
RSNG Coming through European Tour Qualifying School was massive though, right?
MS ‘It was a tough eight days if you count the practice rounds. Looking back at it, I didn’t really put too much pressure on myself. I’d been pro for five, six months. I had Challenge Tour status already secure for the following year, so it was more like some kind of bonus for me.’
‘It was nice to have played a really solid weekend. I was bogey free the last two rounds, and then I think I made it by a shot. I wasn’t really too nervous and I didn’t really put too much pressure on myself.’
RSNG Still, you must have felt the pressure the closer you go to securing that golden ticket – a European Tour card?
MS ‘Yes, it was intense. My caddie was feeling it too, and he’s never normally that nervous. But then I birdied the last hole and we knew it was pretty much a sure thing.’
RSNG You were the number one amateur in Europe at one stage. How do you turn a successful amateur career into a glittering professional one?
MS ‘I’ve got to keep doing what I’ve been doing the last two years. That seems to be working OK. Obviously, I have to make a few adjustments but I don’t think I have to change a whole lot – just be patient and hopefully it will work out.’
RSNG You’ve recorded a number of really good finishes in the Rolex Series events this year. Would you describe yourself as a ‘big game player’?
MS ‘I’d like to think that, yes, but I’ve only played in one World Golf Championship so far and no majors, so I can’t really say I’m a big tournament player yet. I made some progress in the bigger tournaments, especially in the second half of the season.’
‘It was nice to play well in Italy [Italian Open] and finish fourth there and in China [WGC-HSBC Champions], and Turkey [Turkish Airlines Open] second. I’m hopefully trending in the right way.’
‘In the winter I do skiing and indoor tennis and in the summer I like to go hiking or even rock climbing’
RSNG How do you relax between tournaments?
MS ‘It depends on the season. In the winter, when I come home, I do some skiing and indoor tennis. In the summer, I like to go hiking or maybe even do a little bit of rock climbing.’
‘I think it’s still a learning process. For me, it’s important to get the mind off of golf when I’m not at the course, maybe watch some Netflix or FaceTime with friends, or play Fifa on the PlayStation.’
RSNG You’re a soccer fan, then?
MS ‘Yes. I like Salzburg. I go to Champions League home games when I can, but it doesn’t always work out, so I watch more on TV. I also like RB Leipzig in Germany.’
RSNG How will you concentrate when Austria is in Euro 2020 action and you’re playing a tournament?
MS ‘If it happens and I have a tournament on the same day, my game is more important than the football. I won’t be checking my phone on the course, that’s for sure!’
RSNG Do you down tools over Christmas?
MS ‘There’s only indoor golf at the moment because there’s snow, so I just hit balls for an hour or two in the simulator. I just do some cardio work and some strengthening. Then I’ll go into the warm and really get going in Dubai.’
WHAT NEXT? We don’t all get to start our New Year in Dubai. So, [how do you beat the weather and thrive in the winter?] (https://www.rsng.com/categories/movement-fuel/articles/how-to-beat-the-weather-and-thrive-in-the-winter-with-pga-professional-alistair-davies)