Madelene Sagstrom knows she’s definitely arrived in America now.
She finds herself dreaming in English, though she still scolds her golf ball in Swedish.
“That way I know I can say whatever I want,” said Sagstrom, her voice bearing only a trace of her native country.
Whatever the language, Sagstrom’s game has translated into some very good golf in her freshman season at LSU.
Monday she earned second-team All-Southeastern Conference honors, a distinction she shared with senior Tessa Teachman and sophomore Austin Ernst, the defending NCAA individual champion.
Sagstrom also made the SEC All-Freshman team.
Not surprisingly, she was overshadowed most of the season by her older, more accomplished teammates.
But Sagstrom found a way to make her mark. She has recorded three top-five finishes this season — flirting with individual titles in the SEC Championships last month and the LSU Tiger Golf Classic in March.
And after the way she navigated the rugged Blessings Golf Course in Fayetteville, Ark., at the SEC Championships (Sagstrom finished 7-over par, 14 strokes ahead of Teachman, her nearest teammate), the freshman now leads the team with a 73.5 stroke average.
“She’s been very close to breaking through,” LSU coach Karen Bahnsen said. “She’s a quality player, and her experience from her near misses has been great for her.”
Sagstrom shot even par 216 for three rounds in the LSU Tiger Golf Classic to finish in solo third as the Lady Tigers finished second. She then led the SEC Championships through 12 holes on the final day before she stumbled a bit down the stretch into a fourth-place finish.
“Unfortunately, I looked at the leaderboard on 12 and saw I was leading,” Sagstrom said.”I didn’t collapse, but I hit a few shots in the wrong places.”
The LSU women’s golf team is one-third Swedish this season: senior Jacqueline Hedwall hails from Loddekopinge while Sagstrom is from Enkoping, about 40 minutes outside Stockholm.
It helped having a fellow Swede on the team when LSU was recruiting her, but Sagstrom liked the friendly vibe she got when she met Banhsen and was won over by the fact that you can play and practice golf year round in Louisiana.
“There’s four months out of the year (in Sweden) that you can’t play,” said Sagstrom, who is a member of the Swedish national golf team. “It’s an amazing feeling to come out here in December in shorts and a T-shirt and practice. Back home, there’s so much snow you can’t walk outside or drive.”
Snow-capped mountains will serve as the backdrop this Thursday through Saturday when the Lady Tigers travel to Erie, Colo. (just east of Boulder) for the NCAA West Regional at Colorado National Golf Club.
The top eight teams out of the 24-team regional, plus the top two unattached individual golfers, will advance to the NCAA championship tournament, May 22-25 at the Vanderbilt Legends Club in Franklin, Tenn.
LSU, ranked No. 6 in the most recent golf coaches’ pol, goes in as the No 2 seed in the West Regional behind only UCLA.
“We’ve had a rough week” with final exams, Sagstrom said. “It will be fun. I’m excited to see how good we can do when school is over. If we go out and play our best, we should be fine.”
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