Mia Landegren. Is she the best golfer in the Berkshire League? Guest columnist John Torsiello takes a look.
Mia Landegren. The Shepaug sophomore has been turning heads on the golf course and is looking to get even better. Bad news for those who play against her this season.
By, JOHN TORSIELLO
There are a couple of big stories in the Berkshire League golf scene this spring; can anybody stop Lewis Mills and is Mia Landegren the best player in the BL.
Before you jump all over me for suggesting a girl, and a 15-year-old sophomore at that, might be the best player in a league filled with very good male players, consider these facts: Landegren is one of the top female juniors in the nation, she will serve as co-captain of the Shepaug squad this season, she regularly beat the top male players on opposing teams last year, and she would have made All-BL if she hadn’t decided to opt out of the year-end BL Tournament to compete in the Connecticut Women’s Open. Oh yeah, she finished 12th at the Women’s Open, battling players much older than she.
Landegren led the Washington team to an 11-7 Berkshire League record and an 18-9 overall showing while playing number one. She had the second best scoring average among all BL players during match play. She loves the challenge of being the only girl among a sea of boys.
“I really look forward to competing against the guys because I’ve always played against girls. I think it gives me a competitive edge when I do play against girls, and I like playing from farther back on the tee. It makes me work harder.”
Shepaug head coach Al Ciarlo is, of course, a huge fan.
“Mia means everything to our team, when you realize that she led us last year to a decent season as a freshman playing number one. She will have to shoulder even more of a load this season since we graduated two seniors, Samian Roy and Cory Soetbeer, and are only returning one, Ross MacKay. Ross has to move from number four to number two, Spencer Ylagan moves from five to three, and Zach Krin moves to number four with very little varsity experience.”
The coach knows who he figures will be the top player in the BL this spring.
“Mia sets the bar very high for herself. I'm expecting her to be the number one player in this league since Alex DiClemente of Lewis Mills has graduated. We are depending on her to give us that three to five stroke lead from her spot.”
Ciarlo said Landegren makes everyone around her better because other players are inspired to work on their game more when they observe her work ethic.
“Mia is always trying to challenge herself. Last year was a perfect example when she gave up being a Berkshire League All-Star. Even though she was the number two player in the league and would have been a shoe-in for all-league, she chose to play in the Connecticut Women’s Open instead because of the great challenge. She also gave up being named All-State because she did not go to the girls state tournament and instead battled the boys. Again, she would have been a shoe-in for All-State but did not make it because she finished 13th in the boys tournament and top 10 make states.”
Ciarlo had “to beg” the CIAC to allow her to participate in the New England girls championship since she technically had not qualified, but yet she was the top female player in the state by far with a 2.37 over the course rating average. She won the event shooting a 72.
“Mia is a perfectionist, and sometimes that hampers her because she tries to be too perfect. She will hit a drive 230 yards with a five to 10 yard fade and she is unhappy with the shot. I tell her often that pros make bad shots on national TV for hundreds of thousands of dollars.
“Mia works on her game year round, so she is steadily improving. She is hitting her driver farther so far this year. She is constantly working on improving her putting stroke and her wedge shots. She has shown resilience in the past. Last year she started a round with two doubles and a bogey and still managed to shoot a 40. Her swing is one that turns heads no matter where we go. She draws attention but she handles it like a senior. That is one of the reasons why I made her a co-captain this year along with Ross. Her major goal is to earn a scholarship at a top 10 academic school. She is the real deal and the sky is the limit with this young lady.”
With her talent at such a young age, many wunderkinds like Landegren head off to golf academies, where they focus almost full-time on their games while taking high school classes. She is very content attending a public high school and playing for her school’s golf team.
“Shepaug is a great school and it doesn’t matter to be me if I go to an academy or not. I’ve made a lot of friends and I’m happy at Shepaug.”
Mia’s father, Erik, is her full-time coach. She spent last summer in Sweden competing for a club team and was invited to participate in that country’s junior tournament against Norway.
“The ages were 13 to 16 and it was lots of fun,” she said of her Swedish experience. “I won my three matches and that helped us beat Norway. I go to Sweden in the summer and stay with a cousin because there is great competition there and they are producing a ton of great golfers. They run their tournaments different over there and I like it and have done well.”
Landegren plays out of Richter Park Golf Course in Danbury, a highly-regarded municipal track, where she has captured several girls tournaments. She said her finish at last year’s Connecticut Women’s Open gave her the confidence that she can compete at the highest level.
“It definitely made me more confident in my game and finishing 12th overall made me tremendously happy.”
She’s looking forward to the 2011 high school season.
“I’ve been working on my short game a lot and using a new putting stroke that is more compact. I’m really excited about the start of the season. We graduated some good players but we have some new players and Ross and I are captains. I want to lead the team like I believe I am capable of doing.”