Linnea Strom, Epson Tour Graduate, made 15 cuts in 17 starts on the Epson Tour in 2022, recording seven top-10 finishes to earn membership for the 2023 LPGA Tour Season. In addition, she picked up her second Epson Tour victory at the IOA Championship presented by Morongo Casino Resort & Spa.
Nothing was working.
Anyone who has played golf knows what I’m talking about. It’s a challenging game. When everything’s going well, it’s a dream to be on the course. But the lows are low.
I had an extremely difficult 2021 season. Having loved the sport my entire life, I no longer enjoyed playing golf. It got to a point where I even swung with my eyes closed.
Yes, you heard that right. I hardly ever told anyone about it because I was in such a bad mental place. I was so scared of hitting the ball.
In retrospect, I think that is probably the best way to describe how I felt on the golf course last year.
It was an awful feeling.
And I knew if I was ever going to get my confidence and passion back, I had to play the long game.
I started playing golf back home in Sweden. Like many athletes in Europe, I was eventually introduced to college sports in the U.S. I signed with Arizona State where I ended up competing from 2015-2017.
When I decided to leave home and move across the pond, I wasn’t quite sure if I wanted to stay in college for all four years. Quite frankly, I wanted to be a professional golfer, and I saw Arizona State as an awesome opportunity to improve my game.
I was upfront with my coaches about this. To their credit, they were by my side all the way. And I knew I had their support whether I was at Arizona State for one year or four.
That’s why, when we won nationals in 2017, it didn’t feel like there was much more for me to accomplish. While it wasn’t an easy decision, I decided to leave Arizona State after two-and-a-half years to turn pro.
Obviously, the professional tour was uncharted territory for me. I didn't know what to expect. But I guess things clicked for me right away on the Epson Tour.
I really enjoyed myself out there and learned so much from the start. I ended up having a great first season on tour, won Rookie of the Year, and finished fifth on the money list, earning my membership for the 2019 LPGA Tour.
It was a dream come true. I was on cloud nine.
But golf has a way of bringing you back down to earth quickly.
Losing my status
I actually had a decent first year on the LPGA Tour. Sure, there was a ton of pressure to perform, but it was so much fun playing against the best players in the world. I was excited to be there. I felt like I belonged, too.
But then, Covid happened.
It was obviously difficult for everyone, so not having an easy 2020 season shouldn’t come as a surprise. I’d argue that no one had an easy season that year.
But the 2021 season is when it all came crashing down on me. By the middle of that season, everything was a struggle. I wasn’t playing well at all. And the stress started to get to me.
I knew I had to perform to maintain my LPGA status, and it started to impact me both on and off the course. I had no control of the golf ball. I was absolutely terrified of hitting my shots. This was a new feeling for me, something I’ve never had to deal with in this sport. Not even close.
My mind began to wander endlessly. At this point, I knew it was a matter of when – not if – I was going to lose my LPGA Tour card.
So, what was going to happen to me next? Would I have to go back down to the Epson Tour? Would I have to move back to Sweden? Would I have to play on the Ladies European Tour?
Like my golf game at the time, I had more questions than answers.
A light in the darkest hour
As poorly as I played in the 2021 season – the worst season of my life – things were starting to pick up for me a bit towards the end of the season.
I made a trip to Sweden and worked with my coach back at my home club. I was able to work on some areas of my game that gave me some of the confidence I was lacking.
While the results weren’t where I wanted them to be, I was slowly but surely getting my game back one swing at a time.
I was getting closer to my old self.
I lost my LPGA status, but in a weird way, it was almost a relief to me. Constantly wondering what would happen was really taxing mentally. In all honesty, if I couldn’t perform at the highest level alongside my peers, I just didn't feel like I deserved it either.
But I ended the season on a high note. I was able to clear my head, fix some things, and get my confidence back to where it needed to be.
For the first time in a while, I knew I was going to be okay.
So yes, losing my status last year was a blessing in disguise.
Back to the green
In 2022, I split my time between the Epson Tour and the Ladies European Tour. I felt so much better going into the season than I did the previous year, less pressure, more confidence.
I felt like myself again.
I ended up finishing first on the money list and was named 2022 Epson Tour Player of the Year.
While I was in a much better place mentally, I never in a million years thought that I’d have this kind of success just one year after the tremendous struggles of my 2021 season. I was able to get my LPGA Tour card back just a year after I lost it. I can’t even say that was a goal of mine because I thought it’d take much longer for me to get it back.
More importantly, though, I’m glad I’ve returned to loving the sport I fell in love with as a little girl. I know if I want to continue playing golf professionally for many years, I have to enjoy doing it, regardless of the struggles.
And I look forward to doing just that.
But with my eyes wide open this time.