Smarter approach carries Surrey’s Adam Svensson to the top

University is a place for learning and South Surrey’s Adam Svensson is at the head of his class at Florida’s Barry University.

The Earl Marriott grad has been ripping up the golf courses of the southern United States, helping the Barry Buccaneers to the number one ranking among NCAA Div. II schools.

Svensson is a big part of the Buccaneers’ success. In 10 tournaments this year, Svensson has finished in the top five nine times including a Div. II record seven wins, the most recent of which came in the Sunshine State Conference championships last week.

In his first semester at Barry last spring, Svensson established a school record as the only player to finish the season averaging under-par — 71.2 average — for the year. He also won the Phil Mickelson award as the top freshman golfer among NCAA Div. II schools. Despite all of those positive results, Svensson never won a tournament as a freshman.

That gap in the resumé was corrected quickly in his sophomore season and the wins have been piling up ever since.

“I’m not too surprised,” Svensson said by phone from Miami. “I’ve been working really hard at a lot of different things to improve my game. I knew that if I did that, then I would start winning.

“The biggest difference between last year and this year is I’m playing smarter golf now. I’m not making as many bogeys and I’m not playing as aggressively. I guess it’s just a maturing process for me and I’m a lot more consistent.”

Smart golf in this case has less to do with book knowledge and more about working the course to his advantage. Barry golf coach Jimmy Stobs worked with Svensson to remove a lot of the risk from his game, focusing instead on taking advantage of the golf course on holes that play to the sophomore’s strengths.

With a one-stroke lead a year ago, Svensson would take risks in an attempt to push his advantage to two or three strokes. Today, he will instead play safe and go for par, putting pressure on the golfers who are pursuing him.

“Playing smarter golf makes the game more like chess,” Svensson said. “It’s controlling where you place your ball, where your misses are and stuff like that. Sometimes playing safe and laying up on long holes works better for me. It’s all about reducing the number of bogeys and right now, I’m number one or two in fewest bogeys. For me, that comes from being more conservative off the tee and my approaches to the green.

“I used to like to push it and take risks so it wasn’t easy to change. Once I tried it in a tournament, though, it was stress-free golf. It’s more relaxing to play that way and it isn’t stressful. I can just play without worrying about anything. Everybody is trying to birdie every hole and I’m just picking my spots where I need to birdie and find pars.”

In the first tournament Svensson tried the new approach he won the event by 11 strokes. Needless to say, he didn’t need much more convincing.

Svensson has experienced streaks of success in the past. As a Grade 10 in 2010, he went on a six-week tear where he won the B.C. junior and senior amateur titles as well as the Callaway World Juniors in San Diego.

The difference between that streak and Svensson’s current domination on the college circuit is his consistency. In 2010, his run of tournament wins came over a six-week span. Svensson’s current run of success began six months ago and shows no signs of letting up.

“It’s hard to remember what that was like but right now, I think I’m playing better golf than I did in 2010,” he said. “The game seems easier and less stressful for me now. Back then I got away with some bad habits here and there, but those kinds of things don’t pay off in the long run.”

With his seven tournament wins, Svensson is a near-lock to win the Jack Nicklaus award as the top player in NCAA Div. II golf. Svensson is also a strong candidate for the Ben Hogan award as best college golfer in the NCAA regardless of division. Svensson is currently ranked first in the overall standings.

Those awards are secondary to Svensson’s goals of posting wins in his final two tournaments of the season — the super regional and the national finals — and helping Barry claim the national team title.

After that, he plans to return to Surrey for the summer with hopes of playing in the Canadian Open and the U.S. Amateur tournaments.

“I think I’m more mature now,” Svensson said. “I have more experience and I’m practicing properly, putting more time into my game. I’m having a lot of fun.”

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