During the final round of the 2016 Pac-12 Championship, Linnea Strom, then a freshman at Arizona State, stood in the fairway on the par-5 18th hole at Ruby Hill Golf Club in Pleasanton, Calif. She entered the day four shots off the lead, but was 5 under with one hole to play.
That’s when she grabbed 3-wood and took aim, her ball carrying sand and water and landing some 20 feet from the hole. A two-putt birdie gave her a one-shot victory over UCLA’s Bronte Law and a new Pac-12 Championship record of 11-under 205.
“I remember standing in the fairway, knowing she was in the mix and knowing she had a chance to hit this par 5 in two,” said Arizona State head coach Missy Farr-Kaye. “She took her 3-wood out and looked at me, and I said, ‘Yeah, go for it.'”
A year and a half later, Farr-Kaye found herself offering similar words of encouragement. When Strom told her head coach Monday that she had decided to turn pro and forgo her final year and a half of eligibility, Farr-Kaye understood.
“I would’ve loved to have seen her stay longer,” Farr-Kaye said. “She’s a special young lady and has been a big part of this program and my head-coaching career. But she felt like it was the right time to turn pro and the right thing to do.”
Strom, a junior from Sweden, officially announced her decision Wednesday. Ranked ninth in the Women’s World Amateur Golf Ranking, Strom recently advanced to the final stage of LPGA Q-School last month, but got food poisoning prior to the opening round and could only muster a T-72 finish, failing to earn her LPGA card.
She will, however, have status on the Symetra Tour for 2018. Strom could have waited until after NCAAs to turn pro, like Duke senior Leona Maguire plans to do, as the tour allows amateurs to defer their membership until the college season ends. But while the 2018 schedule is not out yet, if this had been last season, Strom would’ve missed seven of the 21 events by waiting until after the college season.
“I am excited for this new chapter and I will be focusing on the Symetra Tour in 2018,” Strom said in an Instagram post. “I want to thank everybody at ASU for supporting me through my college years, I have grown as a person and golfer and could not have asked for a better school and supporting system.”
Strom posted 20 top-10 finishes during her Arizona State career, including five runner-up finishes and a victory at the Pac-12 Championship as a freshman. Last spring, she played a big part in the Sun Devils’ journey to an NCAA title.
This fall she had four top-10s in as many starts, and was ranked 16th in the Golfweek/Sagarin rankings.
Strom’s absence leaves the defending national champion Sun Devils with just five players on the roster. Sophomore Olivia Mehaffey is ranked 22nd by Golfweek, followed by senior Sophia Zeeb at No. 76. Senior Roberta Liti also played in last year’s NCAA Championship while junior Madison Kerley has teed it up in all five events so far this season. Freshman Raquel Olmos Ros has made four starts this season with a best finish of T-24.
Arizona State, ranked 12th by Golfweek after the fall, did sign two players in the Class of 2018 in Alexandra Försterling and Alessandra Fanali, but neither player plans to enroll early to compete in the spring. USC lost Muni He and Robynn Ree to pro golf this winter, but will bring in three signees this spring.
“We will miss Linnea tremendously, but we’re going move on,” Farr-Kaye said. “I have a lot of faith in my team. Everyone but Raquel was in the mix last year. … I’m really excited with group that we have and all five are up to the challenge.”
As for if Strom is up to the challenge of pro golf, Farr-Kaye has similar faith.
“She’s a rarity,” Farr-Kaye said. “I think she’s going to go out there and knock ’em dead. I have absolutely no doubt about that.”
After many successful years as an amateur and 2.5 years with @sundevilwgolf I have now decided to turn professional. I am excited for this new chapter and I will be focusing on the Symetra Tour in 2018. I want to thank everybody at Asu for supporting me through my college years, I have grown as a person and golfer and could not have asked for a better school and supporting system. #sundevil4life #Allin 😈❤️😈❤️ @swedishgolfteam @road2lpga @sundevilathletics