State of the Hogs: Great Dane

Arkansas golf coach Brad McMakin likes what he sees of star Sebastian Cappelen as the Hogs head for the stretch run of the spring season.

Sebastian Cappelen became amused when the reporter knew a little about Odense and the Danish city's famous son.

The first question to the top golfer on the Arkansas men's golf squad: Did coach Brad McMakin consider it a fairy tale when Cappelen arrived from Denmark?

"I guess you'd have to ask Coach McMakin," Cappelen said.

That's as deep as the discussion got about Hans Christian Andersen, the author of so many children's classics. Let's just say that Cappelen is no Ugly Duckling, Little Mermaid on or off the golf course. But perhaps like the dogs in The Tinderbox, McMakin might be able to summon Cappelen to the rescue when the Hogs play in the SEC Championships Friday through Sunday in St. Simons Island, Georgia, then the NCAA Regional in May 16-18 at The Blessings in Johnson.

Cappelen has been stunning for his three-year UA career. He has 13 top 10s, three this year.

There's also spectacular play in two all-star events this year, a first at the Patriot Invitational in Arizona and a second at the Western Refining. It was two years ago at the Western Refining that Cappelen won the long drive contest with a blast of 344 yards. He shot a combined 17-under at the Patriot and Western Refining this year.

McMakin had generally followed other team members over the past several years, but found himself around Cappelen during rounds more of late.

"I've walked with Sebastian a lot this spring," McMakin said. "I've seen a lot of good players through the years, but he's great. Consistent and as good as anything you can imagine.

"All he needs is a good putting round at the SEC and it's over. He's as good as anyone out there. He might hit one bad drive a round. He might have a couple three putts. And he'll shoot the easiest 70 that you've seen. He shot 70 the last day at Bryan so easy. Right now, watching him is a lot of fun."

Cappelen has led the Hogs in five of the nine tournaments he's played this year. His ball striking is other worldly.

"He's gotten so much better as far as confidence and he's calmed down," McMakin said. "He talks like he expects to win each week. You watch him play, it's like seeing a Tour player. Everything he hits is close, I mean really close."

Cappelen said his improvement at Arkansas hasn't been so much hitting it closer. It has been learning to play away from the impossible shots.

"I've learned how to score," he said. "That's what coach has taught me. I used to try to shape every shot perfect. I've learned that you only hit about five perfect shots a round. So it's how do you handle the rest. I used to try to play pretty. I think what's happened is that my bad rounds are a lot better now."

It's a long way from Denmark to Arkansas. Golf in his hometown isn't much.

"The season is very short," Cappelen said. "And our courses aren't in the shape we have here. So that's why I wanted to come here to play. It was an incredible decision. What we have here is unbelievable. The facility, the course and the program are all outstanding. I've made a decision to live here after college."

Cappelen thought he was going to be a soccer player like his father, a famous professional player with 11 matches with the Danish national squad. He had 350 starts for a famous hometown club.

"I loved soccer," he said. "But I found out that golf was better for me. I didn't like playing well only to have your team lose."

Cappelen grew up playing golf with his grandfather, saw his handicap dip to "14 to 18" as a 12-year-old and then to three at age 14. He started traveling with the national team at age 15.

"I knew then that I was pretty good," he said. "I didn't really know about college golf here. I really wasn't sure until I came on a visit. I fell in love."

There was an adjustment period, especially with the language. You wouldn't know it now. There is only a trace of an accent.

Really, the early problem was more his temper. He had to learn to keep that in check.

"He's done that, better," McMakin said. "His attitude is so good now. He's a very good leader. He's much calmer on the course. I tell him that he's as good as anyone when he stays calm."

All that's left is for Sebastian Cappelen to have a fairy tale ending to the 2013 season.

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