Ludvig Aberg

Born This Way

Ludvig Åberg's secret to success: his boring hometown

Editor’s note: In TGJ No. 27 I wrote about getting married in Sweden and discovering the beauty of golf over there. My wife is Swedish, and growing up she played golf with a young Ludvig Åberg, so I’ve been tracking him since he arrived on campus at Texas Tech. Fast forward to Masters week 2024 and I was sitting beside my colleague Tom Coyne in the interview room when he asked Åberg how the Masters is thought about in his home country. “It was always a special week,” Åberg answered. “and mainly because it was always starting to feel like spring back home.” It was a simple yet telling answer for the 24-year-old sensation who isn’t even a full year out of college and has already won a Ryder Cup, his first PGA Tour event, and finished runner up at a major. Åberg’s attitude—and results—in Augusta made clear that the Scandinavian way is an important part of his success. Åberg and I jumped on the phone recently to talk about how his home country shaped him, what he misses most, and his special nicknames for Norway.

Casey Bannon: Tell me about your hometown, Eslöv. What is it like? 

Ludvig Åberg: It’s a small town, I think about 30,000 people. I believe it was 2008 that it was voted the most boring city in Sweden, which was actually hilarious. It’s basically dead. No real social life. Restaurants always pop up and then they go bankrupt or go out of business a couple of weeks later. There’s not a whole lot going on. I enjoyed it. I had my friends and I grew up doing a bunch of different sports including golf at Eslövs Golfklubb where my dad played. 

My parents still live there. So every time I come back that’s where I go. 

CB: Stylistically, how would you describe Eslövs Golfklubb? 

LÅ: It is a pretty short inland park course. I absolutely love playing it now because I hit driver everywhere and there’s not much room for it. It’s shot shaping. I have to hit it around this tree, I have to launch it over this bush, throw it around this corner. It’s not necessarily very challenging but it’s a very social golf course. Everyone knows everyone and we all enjoy playing with each other, but it’s also very different from the southern tip of Sweden where the links golf courses are. I really enjoy playing the links style every now and then on a windy day, but I wouldn’t want to play that every day. I think I’d get sick of it.

CB: How is golf perceived in your hometown? It is a luxury sport, an everyman’s game, a family activity? 

LÅ: I wouldn’t say a luxury sport. Across Sweden, there is a culture of parents bringing their kids to play. Everyone comes, hangs out, has dinner at night. The kids play around the putting green.

But, in my town, there are other sports that compete with golf that were easier for my friends to do. I would say football and soccer being two of them. Handball is a big thing. Ping pong or table tennis is another big thing. Golf has always been in the shadow of those sports, but hopefully, that can change. They’re doing a bunch of incentives to try to get kids out there and play more. 

CB: Are you saying ping pong is bigger than golf in Ludvig Aberg’s hometown? 

LÅ: Almost, to be honest, because my city won the Swedish Championships a bunch of years in a row for table tennis. So for Eslöv, it probably is.

Married to the Game golf in Sweden
Golf is a family activity at Ljunghusens Golfklubb, 45 minutes south of Åberg’s hometown. Photo by Fredrik Brodén

CB: When did you feel like you started to get really good at golf? 

LÅ: I didn’t start playing and practicing more until I was maybe 12 or 13. But, we didn’t do a whole lot in the winter. It was cold and windy and it just wasn’t fun. You would hit balls on the range and shovel some snow off the mats and that kind of stuff. I think up until I started high school, I didn’t really play and practice that much. 

CB: Wait. So, was college the really first time that you could play year-round?

LÅ: Yes, it was.

CB: Wow.

LÅ: Well, I was fortunate to be on the Swedish national team. We would go on trips to Spain, South Africa, and then all these places over the winter just so we could practice and play tournaments. But, I never lived somewhere where you could play year-round up until college.

CB: Did you make big strides immediately after going to Texas Tech?

LÅ: I guess I wasn’t as rusty because I had those months in Texas where I could play year-round. I do think there is value in playing all year because it’s just so much easier and you get better, but I’m a strong believer that you need time off. There’s a balance between playing a lot and getting better, but, at a young age, you don’t want to get to the tipping point where you don’t enjoy it. It needs to be fun, it needs to be enjoyable. I really enjoyed being out there because we couldn’t do it year round. You need to take a little break and do other things as well. I think Sweden gave me that. 

CB: On that note: it seems like the Scandinavian way is not a “look at me” culture. Outside of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, of course. Is that part of the reason you’ve been able to perform on so many big stages this early in your career?

LÅ: That’s a great question. I agree with that. I do think the Swedish culture is not very American, if you will. America is more like, “Here am I, this is me, elbows out.” We’re a little bit more careful people. The way I was brought up—and I would think a lot of people in Sweden were brought up—is you do your work, you work in silence, nothing too flashy, nothing too fancy, you just do it. I think that’s the way I still operate, and I still think that’s what I like. I’m never going to be a flashy guy. I just enjoy playing golf. If you do play good golf, there’s going to be eyes on you, there’s going to be lights on you. That’s just a part of the sport, and part of any sport that you do well. 

CB: Where does that attitude stem from, culturally? Is that from the family unit? Is that nature or nature?

LÅ: I think a little bit of both. My family is very much about how you are as a person, and it doesn’t really matter what you do or where you’re from. My mom is a paralegal. My dad used to be in the furniture business. Now he’s a salesperson selling parts for construction vehicles. It’s more important to be a good person and to be very respectful to other people. That’s what you do. That’s not going to change if you win your last tournament or you finish dead last.

Golf in Sweden bicycle
Riding to the course is a part of the game in Skanör and the rest of the country. Photo by Fredrik Bröden. 

CB: Did you ride your bike to the golf course and, if so, what is it with the bike culture in Sweden? Why is that such a big part of everyone’s life?

LÅ: Yes! I was literally on a bike everywhere when I was a kid. It was a 20-minute bike ride to the course from my house. We don’t get our driver’s licenses until we’re 18, and everyone doesn’t have parents who can take them everywhere. I think Sweden is built better for bikes than it is over here in America. I feel like if you’re on a bike in America, you’re just in the way.

CB: Aside from your bike, what things do you look forward to getting back into when you go home? Like, what is the first thing you eat?

LÅ: Have you ever had a kebab?

CB: We had a kebab truck at our wedding. 

LÅ: I love that so much. I always get that whenever I’m home. Have you had it on pizza?

CB: With the garlic sauce? 

LÅ: So good. Always have to get the garlic sauce. 

CB: My father-in-law is Swedish. My mother-in-law is Norwegian. What’s up with the animosity between Swedes and Norwegians? Is that a real thing or is it just friendly banter?

LÅ: I think there is that general conception of Norway being Sweden’s little brother. I absolutely love it and think it is hilarious. When I lived in Texas, I had two Norwegian roommates, so I always joked about Norway being a developing country. There’s a lot of jokes about “How many Norwegians does it take to change a light bulb?” and those kinds of things. It’s very funny, but there is always mutual respect. 

CB: Wow, so did you and Viktor Hovland unite Sweden and Norway at the Ryder Cup? 

LÅ: Yes, for a few days.

Married to the Game golf in Sweden
Ljunghusens Golfklubb. Photo by Fredrik Bröden