If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it. South Carolina junior golfer Louise Rydqvist was a cool customer in winning her first individual collegiate tournament title, which was also named after her childhood hero, while helping the Gamecocks open the fall season by claiming the team title at the ANNIKA Intercollegiate Tournament earlier this month. Rydqvist’s 54-hole score of 208 was a career-best. Staying locked in over the course of three rounds isn’t easy, but Rydqvist has her own methods.
“It’s a lot of golf,” said Rydqvist, who is double majoring in business entrepreneurship and marketing, with a minor in sports media and is also a two-time Honorable Mention All-American with the Gamecocks. “I spoke with my mental coach the week before, and I told my coaches that I was going to wear my sunglasses no matter what the weather is. In between shots, I’ve got to keep my brain somewhere that’s not on the golf course all the time. I told my coaches, if you see me with my sunglasses on, you can talk to me, but don’t talk to me about golf. I kept them on and stayed in the zone, I guess.
“Coming off the first day where I shot 66, I went to sleep with the lead, and that’s really hard. It’s mentally draining. You still have 36 holes, and it’s tough. When you’re walking down 18, and you realize you have a chance (to win), that’s when you really enjoy it.”
As a fellow Swede, Rydqvist grew up being a big fan of LPGA legend Annika Sorenstam, so it was only fitting that her first individual collegiate win came at the prestigious tournament, and the victory was even sweeter since her team also finished on top.
“It means everything to me,” Rydqvist said. “We’ve put in so much work every day. For it to pay off like that to start the year, it means so much to me. Winning individually is one thing, but winning with the team is huge.
“Annika has been such a role model for me since I’m also a Swede. It was also special having 3M sponsor that event because my mom works at 3M.”
Rydqvist has had the good fortune to meet Sorenstam a few times growing up as she played several tournaments named for legendary golfer.
“It’s a very special feeling to be able to walk up to her and just say, hey, how are you doing, in Swedish,” Rydqvist said. “After the last hole, her husband Facetimed her, and we spoke again after. She congratulated me and sent me a message on Instagram. I’m looking forward to seeing her down in Florida.”
The victory affords Rydqvist the opportunity to earn a sponsor exemption for the LPGA Tour, and she will play The Annika driven by Gainbridge at Pelican Golf Club in Tampa in early November, which is also the site of next spring’s SEC Tournament.
“It’s incredible because that’s the stage I want to play on in the future,” Rydqvist said. “It will be great to try it out and see where my game stands against all of these great professional players. I look forward to challenging myself and being surrounded by all of these heroes. I’ll be very nervous, for sure. You always want to keep taking steps forward in your career, and this is definitely another step in the right direction for me.”
“I wanted to be at a place where I could become the best golfer I could possibly be.”
Rydqvist has certainly made a lot of steps in the right direction in her golf career, but it wasn’t always clear that the links would be her favorite playground.
“I did nearly every other sport other than golf until I was around 13,” Rydqvist said. “Before that, I did figure skating for eight years. I did soccer for seven years. I played tennis, swimming, horse riding, and floor ball. I played my first (golf) tournament when I was 14, and I did my first tournament with the Swedish National Team when I was 15. It kind of took off from there. My handicap started going down, and I saw that I was getting good at it, and then I really started getting competitive.”
Rydqvist was an accomplished golfer before she arrived on campus but working with South Carolina head coach Kalen Anderson and assistant coach Michael Roters has only made her better.
“I wanted to be at a place where I could become the best golfer I could possibly be,” Rydqvist said. “The University of South Carolina definitely has one of the top five golf facilities in the country. We have gym facilities, fitness, treatment, and two absolutely amazing coaches. I’m also surrounded by really good golf players in my teammates every day. We all strive to make each other better.”
Maybe someday, Rydqvist can have a career that requires a tournament to be named “The Louise.”
“That would be amazing,” Rydqvist said with a laugh. “The way Annika has been such a legend for the game of golf and how she has helped grow the game, especially women’s golf, means a lot. Last week, we did a kid’s clinic, and if I can inspire one kid to play golf, it would be amazing.”
Spending so many hours at her craft can be a grind, but Rydqvist enjoys seeing the results.
“What I like about golf is that it’s an individual sport, but in college you also get to be a part of a team, and when you get to represent Sweden and play the European Team Championships, it sort of combines everything together. I like that you have everything under your control. I decide how much I need to practice to get better. It’s all in my hands. I love to travel, too. So, getting the chance to travel, hopefully the rest of my life, while playing golf just sounds better than sitting in an office all day.”
And you can’t wear your sunglasses sitting behind a desk all day either.