U.S. WOMEN'S OPEN
Off the Grid But in the Convo, Sagstrom Soars at Shoal Creek June 3, 2018 | SHOAL CREEK, Ala. By Julie Williams

Madelene Sagstrom is thriving at Shoal Creek, but she has no idea what's being said about it on social media. (USGA/Jeff Haynes)

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Madelene Sagstrom dreams of owning a home. But until that day comes, she’ll continue to scroll Pinterest for home decor inspiration.

At 25, three years removed from college golf at Louisiana State University and with three Symetra Tour victories under her belt, Sagstrom is officially adulting. She’s also contending in the 73rd U.S. Women’s Open Championship at Shoal Creek. Sagstrom’s 2-under 70 in the third round carried her into a tie for fifth at 4 under.

Sagstrom has no idea what people are saying about that on social media. Pinterest is the most-used application on her phone, followed closely by Realtor as she virtually shops for houses in Orlando, Fla., where she’s based. Sagstrom is on a social media hiatus. The Swede recognized the pitfalls of spending all her time scrolling virtual networks and decided to break the habit.

“I love social media for what it is,” Sagstrom said. “I want to use it in a good way. But I started noticing that I was avoiding doing other important stuff, so I decided, let’s break.”

This speaks to Sagstrom’s love for a good self-help story – it’s her favorite kind of book. Lately, she’s been reading one about meditation. Her favorite is Michael A. Singer’s The Untethered Soul.

As Sagstrom navigates her third season as a professional, confidence is key. The beginning of the year was a struggle as she tried to put good scores together. Sagstrom experienced success early in her career. Twelves top-10 finishes on the Symetra Tour in 2016, including three victories and three runners-up, catapulted her to the top of the Tour’s money list and sent her straight to the LPGA Tour. She played so well in her rookie season that she earned a captain’s pick for the 2017 European Solheim Cup team from fellow Swede and three-time U.S. Women’s Open champion Annika Sorenstam. Sagstrom went 1-2-0 for the week, most notably winning her singles match against Austin Ernst, another former LSU standout.

Still, it can be hard not to equate success in golf with self worth. A major factor in overcoming the tendency to beat herself up for bad rounds was her relationship with longtime PGA European Tour player Robert Karlsson.

When Sagstrom was first starting out as a professional in 2016, the Swedish national team did a project in which young pros were paired with veteran players. It worked so well for Sagstrom that they continued the mentor-mentee relationship.

“We’ve stepped out of the box and we’re doing our own thing now, so it’s pretty cool,” Sagstrom said.

Karlsson’s contributions to Sagstrom’s game have come in the form of, not surprisingly, self help.

“Madelene admitted that she struggled with believing in herself,” Karlsson said. “So, we started by taking her life apart and building it up again. We worked on her liking herself as a person.”

Sagstrom and Karlsson have daily contact, whether that’s in the form of a text message or FaceTime. Karlsson can answer every question, from how to build a competition schedule to how to prepare for a major championship.

Sagstrom, who graduated from LSU in 2015 after being named SEC player of the year as a senior, overlapped Smylie Kaufman for a year in Baton Rouge, La. Kaufman is from nearby Vestavia Hills, Ala., and knows Shoal Creek well as part of the club’s “Tour Hopefuls” program. Sagstrom didn’t tap him for course knowledge this week, but Kaufman’s parents did help her find housing for Women’s Open week.

“We have an LSU connection, so it’s very nice,” Sagstrom said.

Familiarity is always comforting, and that alone brings peace of mind for Sagstrom’s sophomore year on the LPGA Tour. When less energy goes into worrying about the details, it frees up more energy for playing golf.

“The nicest thing is coming back and knowing where things are,” she said. “I know where the bathrooms are. I love the fact that I’ve been here before. Not everything is new.”

Julie Williams is a Florida-based freelance writer.

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