State of the Hogs: Sebastian Cappelen

Sebastian Cappelen keeps it simple with strong focus on the day-to-day process, but his Arkansas coach sees unbelievable talent and maturity.

Sebastian Cappelen could have turned professional after his junior golf season at Arkansas. He admits that some might have thought it perfect timing after he won medalist honors in the SEC Championship last spring.

But Cappelen isn't like most elite college golfers. In the truest sense of the word, Cappelen is that student-athlete that the NCAA champions. He's a straight A student in economics, lacking only a couple of electives in the fall to earn his UA degree.

"I'll walk in December," Cappelen said Wednesday morning. "I've got one final exam left this week. It's not practical for me to take summer classes because the golf schedule is so busy. But I'll be here this fall and I'll walk."

It's a big deal to Cappelen. He thoroughly enjoys what he's learned in his major (economics) and minor (finance). It fits perfectly in what he plans to do, play professional golf. He'll turn pro after the U.S. Open in June. He'll use his exemption for his high world amateur rankings (24th) to skip local qualifying and start at the sectional level. Then, he'll take advantage of some sponsor's exemptions to play in some tournaments before trying Q-School in the fall.

"He'll do great in Q-school," UA coach Brad McMakin said. "He's just so consistent. He's very talented, a great player. He's been out of the top 20 about four times in four years here.

"I'm going to miss him. He's been unbelievable, so talented. And his head is screwed on right. He's going to be a four time All-American. He could have hooked it out of here last year, but he wanted to represent our program, get his degree and he's just been so great for our program.

"Not many come along that have his type maturity. He won't fail at anything because of the way he handles life."

First, there are what Cappelen hopes are two more tournaments with the Razorbacks, the NCAA Columbia Regional next week at the University of Missouri, then possibly the NCAA Championships at Prairie Dunes in Hutchinson, Kan., May 23-28. The 19th-ranked Hogs are third seeded in Columbia. They need to finish fifth or better to advance to nationals.

The goal for both is simple: Win.

"That's all you need to do, keep it simple," Cappelen said. "That's all we are thinking about as a team, just win. We are all peaking at the right time. We have high expectations. We know we can do it."

McMakin said, "We've beaten everyone in the country over one round, we just haven't put it together three straight rounds. We are very explosive and very talented. We have worked hard the last month when we've finally gotten good weather and we are ready."

Cappelen is a threat to win every time out. The Odense, Denmark native has a school record 18 top 10s. He entered his senior year with a school record 72.0 scoring mark and improved on it with a 71.6 average in one of the toughest schedules attempted at Arkansas.

So when Cappelen explains the goal is to win, nobody winks. He's as long as anyone in college golf and excels tee to green. When his putting sharpens, no one can stay with him. And, he's as sharp with the driver as ever.

"You don't win it with your driver, but you can lose it with the driver," Cappelen said. "I like my driving right now. My short game hasn't been my strong point, but I've worked on it and I'm better over the last two months."

There is good news about the last two college tournaments for the Hogs. It will be on winter grasses, what they play best. It's zoysia fairways and bent greens in Columbia, all bent at Prairie Dunes.

"It's huge," Cappelen said. "It's what we do best. Bud Alexander, the Florida coach, said on the announcement show on the Golf Channel that it's important to play regionals on the grass you practice. We like where we are going to play."

McMakin knows that's true.

"I recruited most of the team from this region and they are not used to bermuda greens," McMakin said. "So we are on the kind of grass they grew up playing and that helps them. There is no grain to figure. It should be good for our team."

It's what they are accustomed to at The Blessings Golf Club, something that factors into Cappelen's decision to hang around Northwest Arkansas after college.

"I'm comfortable here," Cappelen said. "I like practicing with my coaches and my teammates here. I know this area best. I'm comfortable and I don't want to leave."

That's one reason he didn't leave early last spring, that and wanting a degree.

"It really never crossed my mind to not come back," he said. "Every time you play good for a week it doesn't mean you are ready. Some might think it normal to turn pro after winning the SEC. But I didn't want to give up on graduating college. Just being one year away, it wasn't worth it to me.

"There are a lot of examples of good players staying to finish, although I know many leave early. I just want to keep my reality glasses on and see where I am. I want a degree and know that I have much improvement to make.

"I think it's important to keep your reality glasses on. I am from a culture (in Denmark) that generally does that. This culture is different. Here, it's full speed, go for your dreams. I love that about America. Going for your dreams is why people get so far.

"But I think it helps me to keep reality there. Like I said, you haven't made it just because you play good one week. I still talk to my coach at home and a lot about what we talk about is just that, staying in today. Work on what you can control. Don't look too far ahead."

It's just that approach that has helped him improve over the last two years, eliminating the bad scores in his tournaments.

"I think what I've improved my bad," Cappelen said. "I don't really know that I've had a period where it's all come together like I want this year, but I'm more consistent. If I have a day that it's not working right, it's not a high score. I stay patient, accept that it's not a great day and I still get something out of it.

"It's rare even for the best to put four scores of 65 in a row. There's always a 71 in there. What you have to do is learn not to let that off day be 75. Those three or four shots difference (on the PGA Tour) could mean top 10 instead of 35. I've done that better this year."

That will serve him well as a professional.

"He's a huge talent," McMakin said. "He's like Rickie Fowler, Phil Mickelsen. I was watching them play a practice round and they turned around to their opposite side for a shot. Rickie hit one lefthanded, Phil right. Sebastian has that kind of talent. He can break 80 lefthanded. He can hit a 6-iron 190 yards lefthanded. He just figures it out."

Maybe there is eligibility remaining for a lefty Sebastian Cappelen?

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