Oct. 19, 2003
If the beginning of the fall season is any indication of how much success the Florida State women's golf team might achieve this year, it could be a magical season for the Seminoles on the golf courses of the southeastern United States.
And if Caroline Larsson continues to play as well and improve as much as she has since her arrival in Tallahassee just over a year ago, it could also be a magical season for the sophomore from Sweden.
Larsson was the Seminoles' most surprising in player last season as the team advanced through the NCAA East Regional and into the NCAA Championship for the first time in four years. It was Larsson, who carded a career-best 68 during the final round of the regional tournament, who helped Florida State advance to the most prestigious tournament in collegiate women's golf.
Larsson, who helped lead the Seminoles to the team championship at the University of Alabama/Ann Rhoads Tournament during its first event of the fall 2003 season, remembers that round as the best of her career.
"I think my greatest accomplishment while playing the sport of golf is the 68 I had in the final round of the NCAA Regional last year," said Larsson. It was the best round of my life. Before that day, I had never scored under 70. I really felt I was going to hole every shot on the back nine."
There weren't many times late in her freshman season she didn't feel she would hole every shot during a given round. Her round of 68 in the NCAA Regional was more than eight strokes below her season average and allowed her to average 72 strokes per round in the 54-hole regional tournament. Larsson established career-low scores for low round score, 36-hole total (148), tournament score (216) and tournament score vs. par (+3) in the regional as she earned her third career top-15 individual finish. She continued to play well in the NCAA Championship as she helped Florida State to a top-20 national finish.
After a few trips into the rough upon her arrival, Larsson's transition to life as a student at Florida State was as easy as her transition to life on the golf course.
Though Larsson attended a bilingual high school in Sweden, where one-third of her classes were taught in English, she had to now read, study and converse in English fulltime. She also had to verbalize all of her ideas in a language that was, in many ways, foreign to her.
"My classes at Florida State were much different than the classes I was used to in Sweden," said Larsson. "The biggest adjustment I had to make was that I needed to speak English all the time. I could no longer say my thoughts in Swedish or discuss a lecture with a Swedish friend."
Despite the adjustments she needed to make in order to be successful in the classroom, Larsson earned Dean's List Honors and was named to the National Golf Coaches' Association Academic All-American team, the ACC Honor Roll and the Florida State Director of Athletics Honor Roll as she achieved a 3.967 grade point average.
Larsson follows a simple formula for achieving success on the golf course and in the classroom.
"I try to use my time as effectively as I can," said Larsson. "If I have a one-hour break in my class schedule I go to the computer lab or to the library. In that way, I don't have much work to do after classes and I can concentrate on being at practice or in the gym."
Her social adjustment was just as flawless as her academic adjustment.
"The scariest thing about coming to Florida State was I didn't know what anything would be like," said Larsson. "I kept asking myself 'how was it going to be to live without my mom and dad? Who was I going to live with? Would I like the food? Was the American culture going to be a lot different than the Swedish culture I was used to?'"
She answered those questions quickly as she became one of the most popular players on a team filled with popular players.
"When I first arrived, I tried to view everything from the bright side," said Larsson. "It was really scary to leave home, but I'm happy that it all turned out to be great."
Larsson also had to make adjustments on the golf course. She had to get used to playing as a member of a team rather than individually; she had to get used to playing on Bermuda grass rather than Bent grass and she had to get used to a different philosophy of strength training.
"During my first practice rounds with my new teammates, I played really bad," said Larsson. "It was frustrating because I obviously wanted to show my new teammates and Coach Dillman that I was a good golfer. Coach kept telling me that I needed some time to adjust and that she knew I could play well. It wasn't as bad as it could have been, and after, a couple of days I was playing much better."
Larsson also adjusted quickly on the golf course as she helped the Seminoles to a fourth place finish in the Florida State-hosted ACC/SEC Challenge. With Larsson in the lineup, the Seminoles earned four top-10 team finishes during the fall of 2002 including a second place finish at the Landfall Tradition.
It was during the spring season when Larsson really began to distinguish herself as one of the Seminoles' top players. She participated in all seven of the Seminoles' tournaments and finished second on the team in stroke average (76.47) and rounds at par or below (nine). Larsson earned three top-15 individual finishes including a career best tied for fourth place finish at the Ryder/Florida Championships. Her fourth place finish at the Ryder helped Florida State capture the team championship for the second consecutive season.
"I was more comfortable during the spring than I was when I first arrived," said Larsson. "The best thing for me here at Florida State is that I am having lots of fun and I play well when I am having fun. My teammates are hilarious and my coach is great! I love spending time with all of them, which is important, not only for my own well being, but also for my development as a golfer. "
Larsson continued to grow comfortable on the golf course as she played in the European Championships as a member of the National Team of Sweden during the summer of 2003. She helped Sweden to a second place finish in the event which was won by Spain in one of the closet matches in the history of the competition.
"The European Championship is the biggest event for amateurs in Europe," said Larsson. "To have been a part of the Swedish team and to have played in the event was an amazing experience. I learned a lot from not only playing in the event but also from watching some of the great golfers who were also in the event. I was able to watch the great golfers and compare what I do on the course and I learned many things that will help me be a better golfer.
Dillman, who is in her 20th season as the Seminoles' head coach, sees something very special in Larsson.
"Caroline is probably the most mature sophomore to ever play at Florida State," said Dillman. "Her international experiences and the experience she gained as a member of the Swedish National Team this past summer has only increased the confidence she gained during her freshman season."
Dillman, a member of Florida State's 1981 A.I.A.W. National Championship team who has coached 10 current or former LPGA Tour Pros including Jane Geddes and Colleen Walker, is more than qualified to make such a bold statement.
"She has the potential to be one of the top players in the nation by the end of her career as a Seminole," said Dillman.
Florida State's fall schedule continues Oct. 24-26 at the fourth annual ACC/SEC Challenge at the Sandestin Beach and Golf Resort in Destin, Fla. It's a tournament and a course Larsson is familiar with and an event she is looking forward to playing.
"We are all really looking forward to the ACC/SEC Challenge," said Larsson. "It's going to be a great event against some great teams - teams like us who have the ability to be among the best in the nation. It's one of the best courses we play during the year so we are all very excited about it."
The combination of experience and confidence could help Larsson and the Seminoles reach many of their goals this year. The added intangibles of team chemistry, excitement and staying out of sand traps will help the Florida State enjoy a magical year.
By Chuck Walsh Florida State Sports Information