Skiing was pure adrenaline for him. The desire for speed. Thrill. The feeling of being celebrated as the best. Today, Michael Walchhofer, downhill world champion in 2003, likes to take it a little easier. On the golf course, among other things. In an interview with Golf Alpin, the 44-year-old from Altenmarkt/Zauchensee in Salzburger Land talks about glaciers and greens, ambition and the fun of the game.
Hello Mr. Walchhofer, you ended your career as a ski racer eight years ago. What do you prefer in the summer: the glacier or the greens?
Michael Walchhofer: Definitely the green. Of course, I still like to go skiing. But to be honest, I now prefer to do it in winter. Because skiing on a glacier is something completely different than on a slope with fresh snow.
They have been on the World Cup slopes for years. With plenty of adrenaline. The tranquility on the golf course seems completely opposite. But in the end, do alpine skiing and golf perhaps have more in common than you might expect at first glance?
Walchhofer: Basically, of course, the two sports are totally different. If only because of the physical demands. And since golf is the perfect balance for me, I've never compared the two sports. But in both areas, a great deal happens in the mind. The mental aspect, yes, that's something they have in common, and specifically focusing on the point.
Why do you think so many top athletes from many other fields play golf?
Walchhofer: As I said, I think for many it's simply the perfect balance to the often very stressful and exhausting daily routine in professional sports. No matter who that is, skiers, soccer players, tennis players, they all generally use golf to regenerate and balance their bodies and minds.
But as a full-blooded sportsman, doesn't ambition get the better of you at some point during your round of golf, even though all you really wanted to do was enjoy a leisurely round with your buddies?
Walchhofer: Sure, you can never completely shake off ambition. But my big goal on the golf course is to have fun. And if I get too ambitious, then it's no longer fun (laughs).
Is there a bet or two on the court?
Walchhofer: Sure, we play something out every now and then. But nothing major. That's the beauty of golf: The handicap system allows you to compete with players of different strengths.
From being a celebrated ski star, you have now also become a successful hotelier. Together with your brother Rupert, you run the family hotel Zauchenseehof, Hotel Zauchensee Zentral and Hotel Sportwelt in Altenmarkt-Zauchensee. What role does golf play there?
Walchhofer: Our businesses are not located directly on the golf course, but in just under 15 kilometers, for example, you can be at the Radstadt Golf Club, incidentally the world's only golf course with a golf gondola. There are already guests who come to us for golfing. But generally they come to us because of the mountains. For skiing, hiking or biking. It's popular again, especially with families, to take a vacation in the mountains. That's wonderful.
Back to golf: What are you most excited about when you go out on the course?
Walchhofer: About a successful stroke. This feeling is ingenious.
As a ski racer, you celebrated 19 World Cup victories, became downhill world champion and won a silver medal at the Olympic Games. But what has been your greatest moment as a golfer so far?
Walchhofer: (thinking) I once skied the Lauberhorn downhill in Wengen. The tee shot at the top of the start house went really well for me and everything went great that day. That was an unforgettable experience. The backdrop in Wengen, the mountains and the atmosphere - simply brilliant.