Higher and higher
Hedwall continues ascension up ranks with solid start to 2012
Success has become a common companion for Sweden’s Caroline Hedwall.
The second-year pro is in the midst of an encouraging start to the 2012 LPGA Tour season, her first after a breakout year on the Ladies European Tour in 2011. Hedwall has followed her stellar year on the LET – in which she won four times and earned Rookie of the Year honors – by hitting the ground running in the LPGA ranks.
Seven tournaments into her season, Hedwall is yet to miss a cut and has six top-20 finishes. Two of those are top-10s, and
“I think that I’ve gotten off to a good start, and I feel I have the game to be up at the top,” said Hedwall, who is 22nd in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings. “If I have a good week, I’m confident that I can win a tournament on the LPGA Tour. After last year, I felt like I was ready to try the next level, and that’s the LPGA and playing against the best players in the world. I know I can compete with the girls out there.”
In her first year as a pro, Hedwall not only competed with the “girls out there,” but she beat them. She won her first start – in an Australian LPGA event – and added four LET trophies to her case during a breakout season.
“It just gave me a lot of confidence,” Hedwall said of her rookie season. “I played really well, and I won in May, July, August and December, so I spread it out all over the year. It just meant a lot and gave me a lot of confidence. Then, when I was picked to play in the Solheim Cup, it was just a great start for me.”
Hedwall was selected by European Captain Alison Nicholas to play in the Solheim Cup at Killeen Castle in Ireland, and she didn’t disappoint. She posted a 2-1-1 record and helped the Europeans take back the cup in a nail-biting 15-13 victory.
Being close to home and cutting her teeth in the pro ranks in the friendly confines of the LET helped Hedwall ease into life as a full-time pro.
“After college, I felt like I wasn’t really ready to move to the U.S. yet, so starting in Europe and playing there was perfect for me at that time,” she said. “It felt really nice, and I was really comfortable living at home. I had my home team and all the people around me living there too, so I could stay close to them.”
Her success, however, should have surprised no one, as Hedwall put together a top-notch amateur career.
A two-time First-Team All-American at Oklahoma State, Hedwall was the 2010 NCAA individual champion, the 2010 National Golf Coaches Association Player of the Year and a two-time Big 12 Player of the Year. As a representative for Sweden, Hedwall was twice a European Ladies Amateur Team Champion (2008, 2010), a two-time European Ladies Amateur Champion (2007, 2009) and the 2008 World Amateur Team Champion.
An even-keel approach to the game, Hedwall says, helps her stay grounded and avoid the lowest of the lows. The ability to have even par be her “big” number while competing is also a huge asset for the young talent.
“I think I’m really stable from tee to green, and when my putting works, I can shoot really low,” said Hedwall, who has earned $167,026 so far this season. “I always keep my driver in play, and I hit a lot of greens and give myself a lot of birdie opportunities. I think that’s my strength.
“Even if I have a bad round, I don’t shoot really high. I know that I can usually get in around par, even if I have a bad day. I feel like I don’t have to go out and worry about making the cut, because I know that I’ll always be around par. And if you shoot around even-par, you’re not going to miss a lot of cuts.”
Hedwall doesn’t pile unnecessary pressure upon herself when she looks at season goals, instead focusing on enjoying herself in the moment.
“Last year, I didn’t really have any expectations when I played on the European Tour, and I kind of feel the same way this year,” she said. “I want to play well and feel like I belong there. I’ve had a good start, but I feel that I don’t really have expectations. I just want to enjoy my time and feel like I can compete.”