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Monday February 27, 2012Staying Grounded: Fast Start Has Not Altered Hedberg's Consistent Approach

Scott Carter
By SCOTT CARTER
GatorZone.com Senior Writer

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – It took two holes and one long putt to see what Gators women’s golf coach Jan Dowling was talking about.

Dowling first saw Camilla Hedberg play in person a couple of years ago. Dowling was at the Doral Publix Junior Golf Classic in Miami on a recruiting trip. She had already met Hedberg, visiting Florida with her family from their home in Spain, during their brief stop at UF prior to the tournament.

Dowling liked Hedberg the person. She was now ready to watch Hedberg the golfer.

“It didn’t take me too many holes to figure out that I wanted her on my team,’’ Dowling said.

Hedberg eventually signed with the Gators – Dowling’s first recruit into the program – and has done nothing but confirm what Dowling saw in her performance at Doral. An accomplished junior golfer in Spain, Hedberg capped 2011 as the No. 1-ranked amateur female player in her homeland and immediately showed why in her UF debut.

Hedberg shot 8-under-par at the Cougar Classic in September, a school record for a 54-hole event. With the spring season now in full swing, Hedberg finished the second round of Monday’s Allstate Sugar Bowl Intercollegiate Championship in New Orleans with a 3-under-par 69, moving her into the top 10 in the individual standings entering Tuesday’s final round.

A few days ago she played a practice round at UF’s golf course as a couple of spectators followed along.

Hedberg’s tee shot on the first hole went perfectly down the middle of the fairway. Her approach shot landed on the green and she two-putted for a clean par. On the par-3 second hole, Hedberg landed on the high side of the green about 30-feet away from the cup. A par from there would have been a mini-victory.

As she made her way to the green, her playing partner, teammate Evan Jensen, took her by the shoulders and showed her about an 8-foot alligator lying on the bank of the pond they were walking around.

Hedberg paused briefly to look toward the gator. She then continued to the green with her golf bag draped over her shoulder, pulled her putter from the bag and promptly dropped a putt that somehow wound its way over the deep slope and into the cup for a birdie.

Hedberg gave off a smile but quickly retrieved the ball and headed to the third hole. That’s when UF received word that Hedberg had been named SEC Golfer of the Week for her performance the previous week at the Northrop Grumman Invitational in California.

If you expected Hedberg to do a celebratory dance, sorry. That is not the young Spaniard’s style.

“I think that one thing that makes her special is she doesn’t ever get too high or too low,’’ Dowling said. “Golf is a very important part of her life, but she’s got this great balance to her.’’

Hedberg grew up in an affluent seaside town on the Mediterranean called Sitges, which is located about 20 miles southwest of Barcelona. Both her parents played golf when she was younger, so naturally Hedberg picked up the game at an early age.

She began to spend more time on the course when she became a teenager and by the time she was ready for high school, Hedberg enrolled into a private school about an hour from home that also featured an IMG-type sports academy.

Her golf game blossomed and so did her options. While Hedberg’s goal is to turn professional one day, she has always wanted to attend a U.S. college and play golf simultaneously first. The trip to UF with her family only reinforced that desire.

“In Spain, going to university and playing golf at the same time is almost impossible,’’ she said. “They won’t allow you to miss classes and you won’t be able to take exams on other days. It’s not like here where the university is here and the golf course to practice is nearby.”

Hedberg had offers from other top programs such as Arizona State, Florida State and Purdue, but UF offered the most in her view.

She liked the campus, the weather and the facilities. And get this, she had never even heard of Tim Tebow when she visited.

“I knew nothing about football,’’ she said.

She does now after attending some games in the fall. And of course, she knows her way around a golf course.

Hedberg has split time with Mia Piccio as Florida’s No. 1 player in the lineup since her memorable debut.

“I’m sure she was nervous in her first tournament but she was able to approach it in a very mature way – a pretty impressive start,’’ Dowling said.

While Hedberg did not have any previous ties to the Gators, she does have a close friend at UF who can relate to being a first-year college student far from home.

Gators freshman basketball player Andrea Vilaro Aragones is from Barcelona and in an it-really-is-a-small-world moment, they made a connection at UF.

“My best friend and her best friend are dating,’’ Hedberg said. “I went to class with her best friend last year in high school; I knew that she was coming here and she knew I was coming here but we never met.”

When Aragones’ mother recently passed away, Hedberg tried to console her new friend. When it’s too late to call their parents back home because of the six-hour time difference, sometimes Hedberg and Aragones will share stories to pass the time.

In her short time here, coming to America has not been a problem for Hedberg on or off the course.

“I think I’ve handled it pretty well,’’ she said. “I think after a month I felt adjusted. I’m hitting the ball pretty good. My short game could always be improved.”

Like nearly everything she said, Hedberg sounded very calm and relaxed, speaking nonchalantly about life back home, her game, her future and whatever else thrown her way.

That’ pretty much the same Hedberg that Dowling described.

“She is very consistent,’’ Dowling said. “That is a big thing for her.”

 

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