May 14, 2014
Niclas Carlsson leads the Tigers into the NCAA Auburn Regional, starting Thursday
By Phillip Marshall
AUBURN, Ala. - In the summer of 2010, Niclas Carlsson left the comforts of his home in Enebyberg, Sweden, and made a 15-hour flight to a strange new world. It was an adventure for which he'd hoped and planned since it became obvious that he was not a normal teen-age golfer.
And he made it pay. An older, wiser, more mature Carlsson will lead the Tigers into the NCAA Auburn Regional, starting Thursday at the Auburn University Club.
Carlsson has steadily progressed in Nick Clinard's program. He made second-team All-Southeastern Conference this season. His stroke average of 71.03 is sixth best in the SEC.
Clinard was the golf coach at UCF when he started recruiting Carlsson. When he moved to Auburn, he kept on recruiting him. Carlsson made the long trip to visit the Auburn campus and decided it was the place for him.
"I really didn't know exactly what to expect," Carlsson said. "I like this place, because you can make it whatever you want it to be. You can play as much golf as you want, you can study as much as you want, you can major in whatever you want, you can have as many friends as you want, you can major in what you want. I decided quickly I wanted to focus on school and golf. That's what I did."
Carlsson believes he was 2 or 3 years old the first time his father, a golf lover with a 15 handicap, took him to the driving range. He was hooked.
"I played every summer growing up and did some traveling with the Swedish golf team," Carlsson said. "I just pretty much played all my life. I loved it right off."
By the time he was 13, Carlsson was turning heads on the golf course. He decided then he wanted to go to college and play golf in the United States.
When Auburn's season ends - either in the regional or in the NCAA Championship - he will head home and turn professional. He'll try to qualify for the European Tour with an eye on eventually returning to play on the PGA Tour.
He'll go home a wiser and more mature man.
"I was kind of immature when I came here," Carlsson said. "I got really upset when I played bad. It normally cost me a couple of shots if I played a bad hole or a bad round. This semester, I've been a lot more consistent."
And he'll also go home having become a fan of American football.
"Yeah, I have," Carlsson said. "I don't really like baseball yet. Maybe sometime in the future. Football is fun to watch. It's nuts how 90,000 people can go watch those games. It's a cool atmosphere."
If Auburn is to be one of the five teams to advance out of the 14-team regional field, Carlsson will likely be called on to lead the way.
"He's made progress with his swing and technique, but he's also made progress with maturity and patience," Clinard said "That's been the two biggest areas he's improved on. He's come a long way."
Phillip Marshall is a Senior Writer for AuburnTigers.com. Follow Marshall on Twitter: