Building off success from a strong showing in the 2007 spring golf season, junior Victor Almstrom is tearing up the golf course early this season for the Gophers.
In the first two tournaments of the year for Minnesota, Almstrom placed third at the Gopher Invitational by shooting a then-career-best even-par 216. He then followed by improving his own career best with a 5-under-par 211 at the Ping Preview. This performance was good enough to earn him second-place honors.
His early-season success was not unexpected, as last year he placed in the top 15 at the NCAA Championships, which garnered him All-American honors. However his performance at the NCAA Championships was a slight surprise because at the biggest event of the season for the Gophers, Almstrom outshined Minnesota greats Bronson La'Cassie and Niall Turner.
It seems as though Almstrom has now decided to keep the spotlight on himself by consistently performing well enough to have his name at the top of the leader board.
Almstrom points to his success last spring and over the summer as reasons for his quick start this season.
"I knew things were in the works," Almstrom said. "It's not something you think about every day but during the spring this year I hit the ball much better."
Not only did he perform well last spring for the Gophers, but individually this summer Almstrom placed second in a pro event in his native country of Sweden. He also finished in the top 15 in another pro event and was picked to play for the Swedish National Team.
To get to the level at which Almstrom is now performing, it was not a stroke of luck according to coach Brad James.
"He worked extremely hard and was very resourceful in using coaches," James said. "He practiced at practice; it wasn't a social hour for him."
When Almstrom first entered the program, it would have been a struggle for him to compete at such a high level due to his inability to hit for distance. That has all changed, and in senior Clayton Rask's opinion Almstrom now hits the ball as far as anyone on the course.
Almstorm's improvement on his distance and ball-striking ability combined with his already sensational short game has now equaled trouble for all those challenging him.
Also factoring into Almstrom's success this year has been his mental toughness.
"I have always known what I want, and I won't settle for anything less," Almstrom said.
He went on to say that just being able to 'grind out there when it's tough' allows him to overcome those days when he might not be playing at his best.
With all the early season success Almstrom has had, neither he nor his teammate Rask feel that Almstrom is playing to his fullest ability.
"He is competing for a win every weekend, and he isn't even playing his best golf right now," Rask said.
Almstrom agreed and said that there have been instances in which he should have pared a hole but instead, bogeyed to lose a stroke. One or two of these instances at a tournament adds up and can be the difference between first place and a lower placing he said.
When Almstrom hammers out the few mistakes he might have in a round it will spell trouble for all his foes for the rest of the season, and their best golf might not be good enough to beat him.
It will be up to Almstrom to eliminate those mistakes, but either way Coach James has been grateful for what he has brought to Minnesota golf.
"Victor is one of those kids that doesn't come along too often," James said, "and you really appreciate when someone like him does come into your program."
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