Unforgettable moments Magical year for Matilda Castren | LPGA

by | Dec 11, 2021 | LPGA

At the beginning of the period of reflection, a time when we can take a deep breath and reflect on the year that lies behind us, this is the perfect opportunity to look back on the highlights of the LPGA Tour from 2021, normal after the unbalanced chaos that the World was in 2020, the past year has seen an abundance of brave comebacks, rising stars, and groundbreaking moments from players the public didn’t know before.

In this latter category, no story offered a more pleasant surprise than the rise of Matilda Castren.

At the beginning of the year, many fans said “Ma-who?” That’s because you probably never heard of the 26-year-old from Finland until last summer, unless you were an avid fan of women’s college golf. Yes, she won seven times in four years at Florida State University, which is still a record for a school that has produced great champions like Jane Geddes, Karen Stupples and Colleen Walker, and LPGA Tour veterans like Lisa Walters and Kris Tamulis . But Castren has a catch after college. She struggled without a win on the Symetra Tour for two years and thought about doing something else. Then, in 2020, after completing T-26 on the 2019 Q-Series, Castren entered LPGA touring life in a year of few watching.

As a silver lining, the pandemic gave Castren some air to breathe. She dipped her toes in the waters of the LPGA Tour on a limited schedule and then played Symetra Tour events here and there and won the Florida Mission Inn Resort and Club Championship, the closest event to her alma mater.

Even so, only a few knew them. Her name was reminiscent of characters in old Disney films. Matilda Castren. Wasn’t she one of those children who fled Witches Mountain? No? Oh right, she was the youngest girl in Bedknobs and Broomsticks, wasn’t she?

Those questions would have remained if it hadn’t been for one cold, foggy final lap outside of San Francisco. That Sunday, Castren was one of many players fighting for her first victory in the Mediheal Championship. With the hangover from the US Women’s Open at the Olympic Club the week before that lingered like a Pacific Navy shift, Castren knocked off two shots behind Min Lee and Lauren Kim, neither of which had smelled a victory. But just a few shots back and a few groups away lurk players with loads of trophies, including great champions So Yeon Ryu, Danielle Kang, and Hannah Green.

Almost no one paid any attention to Matilda because few outside of her friends on tour knew about her. But calm and serene, the young woman, who was born in New York, grew up near Helsinki, and lived in San Diego caught the attention of commentators, including Judy Rankin, who considered the golf swing to be one of the purest and most stable she has ever seen had ever seen year round.

Castren hosted a badass clinic that day. On a course that required precision, she hit 16 greens and only took 29 putts to hit a 7-under-par 65. And her putting didn’t look that impressive. It just hit so close that birdies seemed routine. She started with three of them in a row, followed by an eagle on the fifth par-5. She made another birdie in ninth place, then reeled eight straight pars of fairway and green before ending with a birdie on 18, an attainable par-5 that has been the scene of a lot of drama in the past at the Mediheal Championships .

Castren’s 14-under total was a tournament record. She was also the first player from Finland to win the LPGA Tour.

“It’s been a dream of mine to win since I was a little girl and to see it happen and just win, it’s such an amazing feeling,” Castren said afterwards. “There is nothing like it.”

Winning the LPGA Tour is always a dream come true. And if the credits had run in Daly City that afternoon, everyone would have applauded Matilda Castren and left happily. But their story of 2021 was far from over. A month after winning in California, Castren was back in Europe with another unique goal. Since she was committed to the LPGA Tour, she had not become a member of the Ladies European Tour. And with Solheim Cup eligibility at stake, she had to win one of her four LET starts. The second would not work. She needed a win.

It only took one start to get the job done. At her first event at LET, the Gant Ladies Open in her home country Finland, Castren shot a 68 finals to win with three shots and secure a place in the European Solheim squad.

Eight weeks later, on a sunny Sunday afternoon in Toledo, Ohio, Castren defeated Lizette Salas on the 18th hole at the Inverness Club with a lead of 1 to claim the Solheim Cup for her European team.

Even Disney couldn’t write such an ending. You can’t get more picture books than that.