April 12, 2010
BY JOSH PATE
Robin Wingardh loves a challenge. It's why he came from Sweden to the United States to play collegiate golf. It's what he enjoys about U.S. competition. And it's why he is one of Tennessee's best golfers.
Wingardh has been locked in this season for the Vols, most recently placing sixth for UT as it took home its third top-five finish in the last four events. The junior fired a season-best 9-under-par 207 two weeks ago at the Administaff Augusta State Invitational, his best outing of the season. And what a good time to peak.
Tennessee now heads into this weekend's Southeastern Conference Men's Golf Championship at St. Simons Island, Ga. Wingardh has three top-10 finishes this season for the Vols and has scored 15 rounds of par or better heading into weekend play. But before he shoots for an SEC trophy, he fires a round on "The Front Nine."
No. 1 (Par 4, 417 Yards) -- What has been the best part about this season for you as it comes down the home stretch?
RW -- I haven't really played as well as I wanted to, but it's been a good learning experience. I've had to work hard. I've learned a lot from our team's mental coach, the team's psychologist, Joe Whitney. I've been learning a lot about ways to think on the course. This is probably the season that has taught me the most, even though I haven't been playing the way I wanted to. I'm starting to feel that the stuff I'm working on is starting to work a little better so it's all coming together.
No. 2 (Par 3, 201 Yards) -- What do you consider to be your advantage going into this time of season?
RW -- As a team, first, our advantage is we seem to play better when the field is better. We kinda thrive on playing with better teams. When it comes to myself, I like playing when I feel like I need to play my best. I think I play better when the conditions are harder. I like pressure. I like the competition to be a little harder. That's it. It's like that with any tournament; you go in and try to play your best to win.
No. 3 (Par 5, 620 Yards) -- Talk about life in Sweeden.
RW -- I grew up with a golf course right at my house. The first time I hit a ball I was probably 2 or 3. I started playing, mostly with my dad, when I was 6 or 7 years old. I've been playing pretty much every day since then. I started playing in tournaments probably when I was 8. It's been perfect to live right where I lived at home. We had a really good golf course with very good practice facilities. The golf program in Sweden is so good because there's a lot of effort in helping junior players. I've been able to travel all over the world with the national team. I've played so many tournaments at home so it was not as hard to get into tournament play over here.
No. 4 (Par 4, 410 Yards) -- Is there a big difference between golf in Sweden and the United States?
RW -- The only thing different here is that you play better courses over here. Everything is well prepared. The tournaments take care of us. Everything is a little more professional over here. But it hasn't been that big of a change, actually, when it comes to golf. It's especially hard to deal with all the school work and the culture is different and stuff. But golf-wise, it hasn't been all that different. I came over here a few times actually before I started college to play so I kind of knew what it was like. I think Sweden was a perfect country to grow up in. I wasn't able to play much in the winter, which is a little disadvantage I feel like.
No. 5 (Par 4, 365 Yards) -- As far as the culture differences, how has that been a change for you?
RW -- Over here, sport is everything to do with winning. At home, when you get older it gets more results-oriented, I guess. People over here, I feel like they kind of judge you based on how you do in your sport more than how you are. It's a little bit different. At home, they don't really judge you on your sport. But here, if you win you're good and everybody likes you. But if you lose, you're not good. It's all results-oriented over here. I don't mind that. I think that's why America produces so many good athletes because everybody wants to win; everybody is very competitive over here. I like that because I'm very competitive myself. It's the perfect place to go and get better because everybody is working hard over here because everybody wants to win so bad.
No. 6 (Par 4, 397 Yards) -- What was it about Tennessee that made you chose to move from Sweden to Rocky Top?
RW -- I was in contact with a bunch of different schools, but I ended up going here on a visit and I liked what I saw. I liked the coaching staff mainly. They're real good and take real good care of us and provide us with everything. The school and the people here, I really like that. And Tennessee has a really good golf team. We have a good tournament schedule and play the best tournaments. The practice facilities are good. It's mostly the coaching staff I would say.
No. 7 (Par 4, 440 Yards) -- What has been the best part about living in Knoxville?
RW -- The best part is that I've learned a lot and got to know myself. You grow a lot and really mature. In the two years that I've been here, I've really learned a lot about myself. No matter where I go in the future, I know that I can always take care of myself. And of course, it's neat building lifelong friendships with teammates and all the people, and to get to do stuff that you wouldn't normally get to do if you weren't here. I've really enjoyed the experience so far.
No. 8 (Par 3, 167 Yards) -- What is your favorite course, either in Sweden or in the United States?
RW -- My favorite course ... let's see. I really don't know. The best one we play is probably the one in Vegas. It's called Southern Highlands. I really like that course. I didn't play well there, but it was a really good course. I would have to say that is the best course I've played so far over here.
No. 9 (Par 5, 592 Yards) -- Dig deep into your bag. What is your best club?
RW -- Best club ... hmm. Well, the club I like to use the most and the club I practice the most with is my 60-degree (lob wedge), especially the new one I got. So I would say the 60-degree.