What's it like to win your first event as a professional?

Words by
Josh Coles
What's it like to win your first event as a professional?

Kristoffer Max has just turned professional after a college golf career that included four years at the University of Colorado and one at Sam Houston State in Texas. A product of the Danish Golf Union, he has worked with coach Andreas Kali for eight years. His successful amateur career culminated in victory at the 2023 Danish Amateur Championship, his final event before turning pro. 

Kristoffer is one of Clippd’s longest active users, tracking his progress at college and now as a professional. We caught up with him soon after he won his first professional tournament, the Miklagard Open in Norway on the Ecco Tour.

Congratulations on winning your first professional event!

Kristoffer Max: Yeah, I mean, obviously crazy to get my first win. My very first thought was surprise that it came so fast, but I won't say I'm surprised that I can actually win out here. I'm playing against guys that I've played against for years already and I've beaten them a lot already so, you know, why shouldn't I continue that? I've seen a lot of improvement in the last year and a half. It's just about trying to get it all come together, which it definitely has in the last couple of months since the Links Trophy.

The last couple of holes, I had no clue where I was on the leaderboard. I just knew where I was standing compared to the two guys I was playing with. We had a weather delay after eight holes. At that point in time, I took a look at the leaderboard and saw I was leading by three and the two guys sitting in second and third were the guys I was playing with. I made a double bogey on 14 which made me drop by two and three to the guys I was playing with. I then eagled the par-4 15th and birdied the next. All I could think about on the 18th tee was just to get the damn ball in play.

You shot 65 in your first competitive round as a professional. Were you nervous?

Kristoffer Max: I was really nervous on the first tee and hit a horrible shot, but it was in play. Playing the first hole I was just trying to ease up a bit and get into the right mental state. I shot three under on the front nine and then all of a sudden I finished with four birdies in a row, kind of out of nowhere.

Did it feel any different doing that as a pro?

Kristoffer Max: It didn't. I would say I was really calm. I didn't think too much about where I was and my skill or if I could potentially be leading or anything like that. I was just focusing on the next shot trying to do my best. So, I'd say I was surprisingly calm in the moment considering, you know, me being a rookie.

What are the biggest differences now being out there on your own rather than in a college team set-up?

Kristoffer Max: Some of it is kind of similar and some of it is really different. Obviously, you don't have anybody organising all the travelling and stuff for you. All the logistics are super different. And now I'm a professional, I have to keep that in check with all the economic stuff. 

Where it's similar though, is the importance of every round. In the qualifying rounds in college, you just have to make sure that you're beating the guys you're playing against in order to play the tournaments. Now as a pro you just have to make sure you get every single shot out of a round you can, because you're playing for money. It's no joke anymore.

It's all about how you’re dealing with your own mental game and how it is to be a pro and what it is to either play good or play bad. Obviously there is a little more at stake when you're a pro compared to when you're an amateur.

How do you reflect upon your college career?

Kristoffer Max: So, I made the change to Sam Houston for my final year and it was a really difficult transition. I went from courses up north where it's all bent and rye grass, which I've also been used to in Europe, to going down to bermuda grass. I don't know what it was but it gave me troubles, especially on the greens. But overall I'd definitely say golf wise, it was a success being in college. I would have loved to have played better and had better results, but I'm not gonna regret anything. It was awesome to be there, a lot of fun.

Did you enjoy the team aspect of college golf or are you happier with the solo aspect of being a professional?

Kristoffer Max: Normally, I just prefer to be on my own and to not do group stuff, but I found it a lot of fun to be on a team. Travelling with a team definitely makes it a lot more fun. It's the same in pro golf. When you're travelling, you don't want to travel on your own, you definitely want to travel with somebody else.

Have you set your goals in your professional career?

Kristoffer Max: This year am going to try to play as much as possible on the Ecco Tour. When I turned pro I didn’t have any status or category so it was going to be difficult to just play a lot because I didn't know where I was standing. That’s changed a lot with my win! With a winning category I can play whenever I want to and now my goal is to finish top-30 in the rankings. I'm currently 33rd. I think there are 12 events left. The Ecco Tour finishes in the middle of October.

I also set myself a really difficult goal to get three wins to move onto the Challenge Tour. Now that I have one win, I don't really see why I shouldn't do it. I'm also going to play in the European Tour Q-School. So that's the goals for this year and then I guess I'll wait and comment on the 2024 goals when the season is over.

You used Clippd during college and have continued using it. Why?

Kristoffer Max: It's an interesting program because of the different metrics with the 1 to 200 (Shot Quality and Player Quality). At first, it was difficult to get my head around but having the Strokes Gained as well definitely helps because then you realise what's what. 

And then you have What To Work On, which is really nice. I think the most important thing about that feature is the Importance to Scoring percentage. Obviously there's stuff that you need to get better at but if the Importance isn't significant enough, then you shouldn't really focus that much on it. I think that's pretty crucial to know what to work on first. It's not necessarily working on what you're worst at, it's working on what is most important for you.

Does seeing the feedback in Clippd help to confirm what you feel about your game?

Kristoffer Max: Yeah, it does. Yesterday, for instance, my approach game was really bad. But after entering it into Clippd, I was like “Ok, I didn't realise it was that bad”. It's stuff like that where Clippd helps. Creating the right picture. 

Who has helped you most in your golf career so far?

Kristoffer Max: My swing coach, Andreas Kali, who I've been with for eight years now. The swing is one thing but he has a lot of knowledge on the mental side as well. It's not like a sports psychiatrist who has tools and stuff. He just gives real life examples and his life experience to help us and that's been key for me. In the last 12 to 18 months there have been some parts of my mental game that have just not been good enough. A lot of it has been around my pre-shot routine.

And then my coach at Sam Houston State, Brandt Kieschnick, he's a big inspiration as well. He won Coach of the Year two years ago after he took Sam Houston to the Nationals and finished ninth with the team. And being with him for a year, I can definitely see why he got that. He's just insanely passionate about golf. I don't know a guy who loves golf more than that guy! He just tried to make us a family. Make us as comfortable and loose in our practices but obviously with huge focus.

What's next in terms of your golf? 

Kristoffer Max: There are some areas where I can definitely see myself improving a little bit. But they’re not huge areas, just little details here and there. For instance, I'm three-putting too much, so my lag putting has to be better.

Other than that, if I can continue playing like this, I definitely won't be mad. The last two months have been good and I can see that in my stats. The numbers are continuously improving.