By Bill Sheehan
A Swedish connection has run through Cal State Fullerton women's golf program in recent years.
Martina Edberg was a two-time Big West individual champion and capped an impressive four-year run by being named the 2017 Conference Player of the Year. As a sophomore, Elsa Lundquist led last year's team in scoring average and received all-Big West Honorable Mention honors.
Now, meet Lisa Djerf. The 5-foot-4 freshman from Kullavik, Sweden, finished 11th and eighth in her last two tournaments and was named the Big West Golfer of the Month in March. She will help lead the Titans this week as they compete in the conference championships at Moorpark Country Club. The three-day event concludes on Wednesday.
"Lisa has put it into high gear this spring and that is a nice surprise," said second-year Titan head coach Kathyrn Hosch. "She has contributed to the team's cohesiveness. She is a bundle of joy and brings a lot of energy, and her teammates love her."
The 20-year-old Djerf cites multiple factors in the upswing in her game. "I didn't expect to play this well as a freshman. Moving to a new country was very challenging. But I'm feeling more comfortable living here and taking my classes. And I've spent a lot of time practicing and working out at the gym, which is paying off."
Djerf, who is averaging 76.7 per round this year, likes the Moorpark course. "We played a practice round there. It's beautiful and challenging. Our team has played better of late. I feel confident we'll do our best, and whatever happens will happen."
Titans have three straight top-10 finishes
The team enters the conference championships with momentum. The Titans have registered three straight top-10 finishes, including a runner-up showing at the Red Rocks Invitational at Oakcreek Country Club in Sedona, Arizona.
"We have enough talent to get the job done. If everything matches up correctly, we could come home with a victory," said Hosch.
Sweden has produced many elite women golfers. The most famous is Annika Sorenstam, who won 72 LPGA events and 10 majors.
"There are good golf programs in Sweden. We learn how to practice, what to eat. We can only play golf eight months of year because of the weather, so we spend wintertime indoors practicing swing techniques and working out," said Djerf.
"Annika hosts tournaments all over the world. I've played in her tournaments twice. She is super nice and sweet. I like her mentality – she just let's go of the bad stuff."
Djerf's father, Mats, said his daughter shares that attribute. "She is very strong in her mental game. Lisa plays a course hole to hole. If she misses a shot, she just moves on. That has helped her all throughout her life."
Djerf's grandfather put on her on course
Djerf was introduced to golf as a 6-year-old by her maternal grandfather, Warner Malmgren. Growing up in Kullavik, a coastal suburb of the nation's second-largest city Gothenburg, she played both competitive tennis and golf. She also took art classes and focused on portraitures using oil paints.
She joined the Hills Country Club in Gothenburg seven years ago, where she began working with swing instructor Daniel Grestam. In 2017, she helped propel the Hills Golf Club to the Swedish Junior Team Championship in an event held in Barcelona. That same year, Djerf finished eighth in the Swedish Juniors Masters.
Her parents Mats and Anna Carin and sister Matilda all play golf. Mats owns a factory that supplies automotive parts and Anna Carin works in the retail industry. Matilda, 15, already wants to follow in her sister's footsteps and play collegiate golf in the U.S.
Djerf landed a golf scholarship to Fullerton after sending performance videos to Hosch and becoming acquainted with the coaching staff.
"I met Martina Edberg in Sweden and told her I was talking to the Fullerton women's coach. She told me how great the program was. I came over to visit, and now I'm so happy to be here."
Her teammate Lundquist has helped Djerf acclimate to life in Southern California. Edberg earlier played a similar role, assisting Lundquist during her freshman year at Fullerton.
"It's a challenge to suddenly be living overseas, starting classes and coping with some language issues while at the same time playing golf at a high collegiate level," said Lunquist, whose hometown of Kungsangen is near Stockholm. "But Lisa has made the transition very smoothly, and now it's showing in her lower golf scores."
Lisa Djerf was named Big West Golfer of the Month in March
An upbeat performer with steely nerves
"She is always happy, and that is reflected in her golf game," said Lundquist. "She never seems to be nervous, at least on the outside. You can't really tell if she is 3 over or 3 under."
Hosch also observed that quality. "She could be two or three under par and doesn't think twice about it. That is a really good trait in a player – it tells me there is more in the bank and that there are good things we haven't unleashed yet."
Derf, who uses an interlocking grip and a mallet putter, has worked on her putting with Fullerton assistant coach Margo Dionisio. "Margo has helped her on the mechanical end, with her routine and breathing techniques," said Hosch.
"Our coaches are super nice and super helpful and knowledgeable," said Djerf. "They always help out with anything you need help in"
A business major, Djerf is planning to earn her degree before pursuing a professional career. "It will be very helpful in life to have a degree in business," she said.
"I love traveling and meeting people from all over the world. But this is where I want to be right now. I really love going to school at Fullerton and living here."
"In fact, California is now my No. 1 travel recommendation to everyone back in Sweden."
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