April 6, 2007
Just how difficult has it been to find any warts in the game of Florida State’s Caroline Westrup thus far in her sophomore season? After a runner-up finish in a tournament earlier this month in which the 21-year-old Swedish import closed with a 67, her sixth straight sub-70 final round, a local reporter asked how come she always seems to wait until the last day to go low. Never mind that her opening-round average (74.0) ranks among the top 50 in the country.
No doubt, Westrup’s rivals are thankful for small favors. If she did start tournaments the way she has finished them in 2006-07–she leads the nation with a 67.8 average for her final 18 holes–Westrup might have an even better record than two wins and five top-threes in seven starts, including a T-3 at last weekend’s Liz Murphey Collegiate Classic where she shot a (mere) even-par 71 in the final round Sunday.
“It says something about her as a player, how she’s able to focus and adjust to get better as a tournament moves on,” Seminole coach Debbie Dillman said. “What do you want her to do, get worse?”
Whether Westrup might indeed get worse during her second year in Tallahassee–instead of getting herself into the running for various national player of the year awards–was a question many had after seeing the impressive numbers she posted her freshman season. Upon arriving on Florida State’s campus in January 2006, she carded five top-five finishes in seven events, earning first-team All-American honors in a half-year’s worth of work.
With each passing tournament, however, the daughter of the former Swedish national team coach, Carl Westrup, seems only to be getting better. “It’s just confidence. I know I can shoot low scores. I’ve proved that to myself,” Westrup said.
Such a feeling stems not just from her early success as a collegian but clutch performances in recent amateur competitions. At last July’s European Ladies Juniors Championship, she holed a birdie putt in a playoff to give Sweden the team title. At the Women’s World Amateur Team Championship in South Africa three months later, she shot the low individual score (eight-under 280) and pushed Sweden into second place overall.
When former Seminole Carolina Larrsson, also a Swede, told Dillman of Westrup when the latter was in high school, the Florida State coach offered Westrup a scholarship sight unseen. Once Westrup got to the U.S., she displayed ball-striking that resembled a famous Swede (Annika Sorenstam) with whom she shares an instructor (Henri Reis).
“I couldn’t get over her distance control,” Dillman said. “It’s just rare to find a player [in college] who constantly hits it exactly the right yardage. Approach shots into the green, you don’t have to look long or short. You just look right or left.”
Westrup’s stats back up Dillman’s praise. Not only has she hit 67 percent of her greens in regulation, but she is within 15 feet of the whole in regulation nearly 32 percent of the time. “When you watch her, you don’t realize how well she’s playing,” said Central Florida women’s coach Emilee Klein. “She’s in a comfort zone out there that’s pretty special.”
Having adjusted to collegiate competition, Westrup has been immersing herself in the overall college experience as well. When not practicing or in the library studying (she carried a 4.0 GPA as a freshman), she’s likely with friends shopping at Governor’s Square mall. The sports management major also recently was picked for membership into a student group for FSU undergrads who show “exceptional leadership ability.”
“I don’t want to grow up too early,” Westrup said. “I want to have some fun. I enjoy meeting new people and getting to try new things.”
It’s why she says that unlike former Swedish national teammate Louise Stahle, who left Arizona State at the end of her freshman year after winning national player of the year honors, she intends to stay in college for four years. In the meantime she has the potential not only to re-write Florida State’s record books–most famous golf alumnae: Karen Stupples–but help launch the program to national prominence.
“She can help bring attention to us that we haven’t necessarily had before,” Dillman said. “From a recruiting standpoint, you bring kids in and say you want to play with the best kids in the country? Well she’s right here on your team. You want to measure yourself? There’s your stick.”
Just another way Westrup might turn out to be the best closer in college golf.
By Ryan Herrington Golf Wolrd Magazine