First steps as a pro. The Joel Girrbach interview

The future is bright for this young golfer! Joel Girrbach, 21 years old from Switzerland has made impressive progress over the last years. Starting playing golf in 2001, he needed 3 years to come down to a handicap of 20 and another 3 years to reach a handicap of 6! After further 3 years he was at +1 and the latest handicap he had was an unbelievable +4.3.

Now in September he made the step which he waited for such a long time—he turned pro as one of the best players in Switzerland and fulfills his dream making a big step onto the Challenge Tour or even the European Tour.


His last tournament as an amateur used to be the 2014 Omega European Masters in Crans-Montana at the Crans-sur-Sierre Golf Club in his home country Switzerland couple of days ago. Golficiency’s Alexander Rose managed to talk to Joel about his golfing past, the experiences on tour so far and as well about the next steps being a professional golfer.

Golficiency: The last time we met in person, you were a single digit handicap golfer, 17 years old with a strong belief becoming a golf professional one day. Are you living your dream right now?
Joel Girrbach: I think it’s the dream of every sportsman to make your hobby to your profession. It was always my dream to become a professional golfer. I reached that point now but it’s still a long way to go.

In retrospect, could you briefly describe the way you became such a good player over the last years? How did it all begin and what was the main driver for your success?
I think the beginning was when I became a full member of the national team. They also changed the system in the federation and hired new coaches. We had a great support in the winter time and a lot of camps. That’s when I improved the most.

As one of the best golfers in Switzerland, could you elaborate on how your golf game and your career was guided by others, i.e. who had impact on your abilities, your plans, your motivation and your will to get that far?
When you play the big amateur tournaments, you get better automatically because the level right now is unbelievably strong. We don’t have many good players in Switzerland so I tried to compete with the best players in Europe. I also had to chance to play couple of Challenge Tour and European Tour Events. Of course I look up to those guys and try to figure out where I can improve to get onto the main tour. But I also look up to guys from other sports. Roger Federer for example was a big inspiration for me.

Among all these, was the most influential person so far in your young golfing career? And who would you consider as your team, your inner circle going forward?
It’s hard to say. There are so many people in my background who are important to me. Of course my golf coach is one of the most important guys. But there is also my fitness- and mental coach and of course also my family and friends. All of them invest everything for me and support me everyday. I think nowadays you need a great team around you to reach your goals and luckily I have a great team around me.

Early September you played the 2014 Omega European Masters in Crans-Montana as an amateur and unfortunately missed the cut. How have the days with the big guys been and what do you take from such tour event in terms of mental, strategic or possibly even technical advice?
When you are an amateur golfer and you have the chance to play such a big tournament as Crans is, it’s just another world. There are so many things going on around you with the press, the spectators, the hospitality and also with the good players. It’s an incredible feeling when you stand on the range and one of those „big players“ is right next to you. You need experience to handle all those things. Unfortunately I had two bad holes which cost me the cut. Anyway, I learned a lot in this week and really enjoyed it.

Was there a chance to hang out with some of the players like Colsaerts, Molinari, Wiesberger, Dubuisson or Manassero? How open are these guys towards “newbies” on the tour?
Yes there was. Crans-Montana is such a beautiful place for that because it’s a small village. If you go out in the evening you see all those guys and you can also talk to them. They are absolutely normal and human.

The step to become a professional golf player after Crans-Montana, how long was that something which was planned in a way, envisaged or do you just feel that it’s about time now?
For me it was already clear in February that I’m gonna turn pro in September/October. I think the Omega Masters was a great tournament to finish my amateur career.

How well thought through is the move to becoming a pro, is it even possible to prepare properly apart from the pure training? What steps need to be taken for example?
It’s hard to prepare properly because you don’t know on which tour you play. As soon as you know on which tour you’re playing you can start to prepare yourself for the tournaments. When you turn pro you have to organize so many thinks with sponsors etc. Of course also your training has to become more professional.

Imagine everything works fine in the beginning, which I really keep my fingers crossed for, what are your next steps now? What hurdles to tackle, what tournaments to play?
If everything works perfectly the next months and I can make the card for the European Tour or Challenge Tour then I’m gonna play a full season on the main tour next year. That’s my goal of course and I’m gonna put all my effort to reach that goal.

Keeping in mind the last years’ Ryder Cup wins, is there a special fascination around the European Tour and what do you believe is so attractive?
Playing on European Tour is amazing. All the tournaments are really well organized and they do everything for the players. It’s the main tour in Europe and the level gets better and better every year.

As a young guy moving onto the pro tours, what are your most important tips you could give other young people thinking about a similar step? What are the key measures to take?
It’s hard to give any tips because this sport is so individual. But important is that the young kids should play international tournaments as soon as possible. The level at those tournaments is so much better than playing national tournaments. To compete with those international players makes you a better player.

Is there a special type of golf course you prefer and could you explain why?
I don’t have a special type of golf course which I like more. I like old golf courses with a lot of trees but it’s also very nice to play on links courses. I love the course Royal Lytham. That’s probably my favorite course.

What was the most impressive thing that happened to you in your young golfing career and what are you looking forward to in the near future?
I think the most impressive thing was when I won my first international tournament. That was such a nice feeling. But also playing the Challenge Tour and European Tour was really impressive and a nice experience.

And last but not least, what’s in your bag, Joel?
I’m a full Ping Player. I have the S55 irons (3-PW), the Tour Wedges, Scottsdale putter, G30 3 wood, G25 hybrid and a G30 driver.

Thank you for taking the time for this interview, Joel. All the best for you in the future!

For more information please have a look at Joel’s website (in German)

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