From Swedish army to Minnesota fairways

C.J. Spang

For years Minnesota’s men’s golf team has relied on its international golfers to continue the team’s tradition of success. This season is no exception.

This spring has seen another golfer from across the pond emerge as a key contributor for the Gophers – Swedish freshman Victor Almstrom.

“He knew what he needed to get done and he went out and did it,” coach Brad James said. “And the results are starting to show now.”

After playing in one tournament this fall, The Gopher Invitational, Almstrom played in all six tournaments this spring, and will play in the NCAA Regionals, then possibly the NCAA Championships, provided Minnesota qualifies.

His best finish this season was a tie for seventh at the Augusta State Invitational the first weekend in April.

Almstrom finished the tournament 1-under-par after holing out from about 100 yards away for eagle on

the 16th hole in his final round – which he considers his most exciting on-course moment as a collegiate golfer.

“I was walking with (assistant) coach (Andrew) Tank and asked if we had a chance to win the tournament,” Almstrom said. “I was thinking I needed a birdie to help keep the team in contention.”

But like other international golfers, college golf in the United States didn’t seem like a possibility coming out of high school, especially for Almstrom.

Upon turning 18, Almstrom was called to serve in the Swedish army along with 15,000 other men.

After going through a series of tests, it was decided that Almstrom would become a drill sergeant after 15 months of service – the longest stint possible for those selected.

“That kind of put (college golf) on ice for a bit,” Almstrom said.

A few months into his time in the army, Almstrom received a letter from a golf professional at the country club in Minnesota to which Almstrom’s uncle belonged.

The letter encouraged Almstrom to consider coming to the United States and playing amateur events in an attempt to play in college.

After writing a letter to the Swedish government, Almstrom was released from his duty and came to Minnesota where he got into contact with

James.

“When I first saw Victor, he weighed about 120 pounds wet,” James said. “I saw him swing the

golf club and it was a golf swing that needed a lot of work, but he had

a short game that was absolutely

incredible.”

Another thing that James – and the rest of the team – quickly noticed was Almstrom’s work ethic.

From lifting weights to utilizing the coaching staff, it became obvious to everyone on the team that Almstrom was willing to do whatever it took to improve his game.

“He really loves golf and he practices hard,” junior Bronson La’Cassie said. “And he knows how to play to his strengths.”

James went as far as saying Almstrom might be the most dedicated golfer on the team.

But Almstrom admits he’s nowhere near the golfer he can or wants to be.

“I know what my goals are

and what I have (to do) to get

done,” Almstrom said. “I have a long ways to go.”