San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913

The Daily Aztec

San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913

The Daily Aztec

San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913

The Daily Aztec

Final stretch for Swedish SDSU senior Sara Kjellker

SDSU Athletics
SDSU senior Sara Kjellker hitting a drive on the fairway. (Courtesy of SDSU Athletics)

The Scandinavian country of Sweden produced arguably the best women’s golfer of all time in Annika Sorenstam. She is third all-time with 72 LPGA Tour wins and collected 10 major titles in her career. She helped grow women’s golf and helped inspire future generations.

One Swedish golfer trying to follow in Sorenstam’s footsteps is San Diego State fifth-year senior golfer Sara Kjellker. She plans to turn professional in May after the conclusion of her senior season. 

Coming off a 2020 season where Kjellker was named the Mountain West Women’s Golfer of the Year after winning the Mountain West individual title, she returned home to compete in Europe for the summer and represent Sweden at the European Ladies Amateur Championship in Italy.

She led the tournament after the end of the third round with a score of 8-under-par going into the final day of competition. She shot a one-over-par 73 in the final round and finished in third place.  

“I actually did not expect to play well that week,” Kjellker said. “I had played three weeks in a row so going into that week I’m like, ‘Okay I’m probably tired but I’m just going to have fun.’ I ended up not winning but I love being in contention and that’s why we all play this sport. You get adrenaline and it’s just a whole different feeling when you’re up there (on the leaderboard) and people are watching.”

Like all professional success stories, it starts with a beginning and a moment where a fire is ignited. Kjellker’s story is no different. 

She grew up in Hollviken, Sweden and started playing golf when she was 6-years-old by tagging along with her family when they would go play. During the summer months, her parents would drop her off at the course where she would spend all day playing and competing against her friends. 

Her love of the game took off by first being disappointed. When Kjellker was in the American equivalent of 9th grade, she became age-eligible to participate in the Swedish national camp. However, she was told she wasn’t good enough.

“I think that sparked a fire in me,” Kjellker said. “When that happened I got a different mindset and started working really hard, and then ever since, I’ve been part of the Swedish national team. Since then it has become a different type of love of the game and more like determination.”

Her love of the game got the attention of first-year head coach Lauren Dobashi, who was hired in August after spending the previous eight years as an assistant coach at Stanford University. 

“I think one thing that is unique about Sara is that she loves the game,” Dobashi said. “It may not sound that unique, but I’ve been around a lot of players and a lot of golfers and she just genuinely loves the game. Another thing that stands out is she’s always curious. I think that’s a rare quality in a lot of golfers and so she’s super coachable because she’s curious and always wants to know how she can be better.”

Dobashi noted that Kjellker spends a lot of time working on her craft and that “she basically lives at the golf course.”

Dobashi has had to rely on Kjellker’s veteran presence on a team that has a majority of underclassmen. 

One teammate, in particular, that has grown and been successful because of Kjellker’s veteran leadership is Japanese freshman Anika Sato. Like Kjellker, Sato comes from a different country and aspires to do great things in her career at SDSU.

“She is like my idol,” Sato said of Kjellker. “She plays so well. Not only her style, but her personality is also good. If I struggle with my golf she helps me alot. I am so sad that I have to play without her next year and I can’t imagine what it’s like to compete against the other schools without Sara.”

Along with her school’s Fall competition schedule, Kjellker competed in Q-School qualifying events with the hopes of getting her LPGA Tour card.

She made it to stage two before missing the cut and missing out on participating in the final eight-round Q-Series event. 

“I was super disappointed but I think it was also a great learning experience,” Kjellker said. “The more you play the more you know how to handle pressure situations. I was trying to overdo it. I tried to overcome the game rather than just playing it.”

Kjelker is currently ranked 57th in the World Amateur Golf Rankings. Based on her ranking, she is hoping to qualify for the 2022 Augusta National Women’s Amateur. The final round of the event takes place at Augusta National, home of The Masters.

She will not know if she qualifies until February but her fingers are crossed, as it is a dream of hers to be able to play in it.

When she graduates in May, Kjellker will have status on the Symetra Tour, which is the tour directly below the LPGA Tour. Her eventual goal is to be on the LPGA Tour.

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San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913
Final stretch for Swedish SDSU senior Sara Kjellker