On par

Growing up in Sweden, Daniela Holmqvist idolized Annika Sorenstam. Now, she looks to make her own name in the LPGA.

Danielle Lee/Staff

They were raised in Sweden and excelled in multiple sports as children. Both came to the United States for college and played golf for Pac-12 teams. They have met each other in the past and will have more encounters through the Swedish national team. Annika Sorenstam and Daniela Holmqvist began their careers similarly, growing up less than an hour apart, and Holmqvist, a senior on the Cal golf team, hopes they can end in similar fashion.

Sorenstam’s rise to fame, and the ensuing success, are motivators for Holmqvist’s career. Sorenstam ascended to No. 1 in the world, and by the time of her retirement was known as one of the greatest female golfers ever. Her beginnings and triumphs gave Holmqvist a reason to continue the sport. After nearly 20 years of golf, Holmqvist has never once thought about hanging up her golf bag.

“I think (I never thought about quitting) because of Annika Sorenstam coming from Sweden, and all that she’s accomplished, and just growing up with that,” Holmqvist says.

Holmqvist was born in Switzerland, but traveled through Europe with her family until the age of five before settling in Sweden. She lived in many countries, including Italy and Germany, constantly relocating with her father, who was a professional soccer player.

A lot of (my) athletic drive comes from being with my dad for so many years, and seeing how professional life is, and seeing the amount of pressure, the joy, and things like that,” Holmqvist says.

Holmqvist played her father’s game at an early age, and received much guidance from him about the trials of being a professional athlete.

Despite this close connection to the world’s most popular sport, Holmqvist always remained devoted to golf partially because of her grandfather.

He was a professional golfer from Sweden, and is a Senior European Champion.

She began to play in tournaments at the age of 10, competing against future professionals such as Caroline Hedwall and Anna Nordqvist, who both skipped college in favor of becoming professional golfers. Holmqvist has always valued education, and decided to move to the United States after high school, enrolling at Tulane University before transferring to Cal after one year.

“I played OK my freshman year, but then at the end I started playing well,” Holmqvist says. “I won conference individually by 10 strokes, and then went back home and won a professional event as an amateur. So then I had more options to go to a better school, and Cal’s always been my dream school.”

Holmqvist enjoyed her time at Tulane, but she wanted to go somewhere that had a larger program, and one that would let her grow as a golfer. Though there are many schools that have reputable golf programs, Holmqvist wanted a place that would let her focus on her academics at the same time.

At Cal, Holmqvist has continued to excel, earning Pac-10 second team and Pac-10 All Academic second team honors. Despite these feats, she was not satisfied with what she had done and strove to reach her goal of becoming a professional golfer.

This past summer, Holmqvist competed in many professional tournaments as an amateur, and was selected to play in The Spirit, a tournament for the top 80 amateur players in the world. She received praise after her selection, but Holmqvist had her eyes set on achieving the highest rank she could. Last month at the tournament, she played some of the best golf of her life, finishing in the top 10 individually, and leading Sweden to ninth place overall.

Outside of Cal, and even the United States, Holmqvist has been continuing to play at a high level, something she was rewarded for earlier this year. Holmqvist was selected to be on the Sweden National team, for which she hopes to compete in the coming year.

“Playing for Cal is an incredible honor, but there’s something special about putting on the national team jersey,” Holmqvist says. “You are representing so many people.”

With the team, Holmqvist crossed paths with her idol Sorenstam. When they met, she was thrilled, but  not starstruck. It wasn’t a fan encountering a legend; it was two golfers meeting.  Holmqvist knows that she can be a great golfer, and expects to keep seeing Sorenstam with the national team, even though she is still an amateur.

Before following Sorenstam’s footsteps into the LPGA as a professional, Holmqvist must go through qualifying school. The rigorous process involves participating in various tournaments, and trying to place as high as possible in all of them. Once Holmqvist wins or places in a certain number of tournaments as an amateur, she will be able to declare herself as a professional female golfer.

Holmqvist’s play has led many people, such as Katarina Wangdal, Holmqvist’s head coach on the Swedish National team, to believe that she can be successful professional. Holmqvist has been meeting and practicing with the team every month or so, and played with the rest of her teammates at The Spirit.

“We were really impressed with her ball striking and swing (at the Spirit), you can both see and hear the exceptional ball contact,” Wangdal said. “Daniela has a lot of characteristics and necessary components that (are) crucial in order to take the next step. She has good foundations, good discipline when it come to practice and has the rare ability to play her best when under a lot of pressure.”

For Holmqvist, this is just the beginning. She has dreamed of becoming a professional for as long as she remembers, and her motivation to do so is completely unwavering.

“You know, everyone talks about (giving up), but I’ve never really felt that before,” Holmqvist says. “Every day I wake up and I want to be the best golfer that I can.”