Frida Kinhult (FSU Athletis)
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Frida Kinhult is a lurker, literally and figuratively. Nothing brings her greater delight than sneaking up on a teammate, a coach or a family member and popping out from behind a corner for a good scare. She always remembers to keep her iPhone camera on so she can show you exactly how high you jumped.
The symbolism is obvious here, as Kinhult, a Florida State freshman, sits eight shots off the lead after two rounds at the NCAA Women’s Championship. She followed up an opening 4-over 77 at Blessings Golf Club with an even-par 73. It’s good but not great, considering the difficulty of this Blessings layout.
“A small mistake is a big mistake on this course,” Kinhult said after the second round.
This week aside, Kinhult’s freshman season is a body of work that sometimes gets overlooked. In nine starts so far this season, Kinhult’s worst finish was a 13th at NCAA Regionals. She fired a final-round 68 to claw that high.
Kinhult stacks up well against the giants. She is 5-0 against reigning national champion Jennifer Kupcho, a Wake Forest senior who won the Augusta National Women’s Amateur last month. Kinhult was playing the ANA Inspiration, an LPGA major, on a sponsor exemption that week. Kupcho and Kinhult were named co-ACC Players of the Year earlier this month.
Kinhult was also the ACC’s top freshman. She’s only the fifth player to sweep those awards, and the other four have been from Duke. Kinhult is the first Seminole to win either, and now she's a frontrunner for the Annika Award and a player-of-the-year candidate.
Kinhult is essentially the glue that holds a lineup of Florida State freshmen together. Remarkably, there are four on this team, which entered NCAAs ranked No. 9 in the country. Kinhult is a born leader, she’s structured and she doesn’t sugar coat things. She brought her own drills to Tallahassee to teach her teammates and coaches, and she has a plan mapped out for how she’ll improve her game in the coming weeks and months. It starts with her wedges.
The Kinhult family knows golf, and though she tried other sports as a kid, she always came back to golf. Kinhult’s father Mikael spent 27 years as the head golf professional at Skafto Golf Club in Lysekil, Sweden. He has since taken a retirement, of sorts, to work with his kids. Frida’s older brother Marcus is a European Tour player who won the Betfred British Masters last week.
Marcus didn’t go to college, and even though Frida looks up to him and leans on him for decisions, she chose this path with conviction.
“We’re always helping each other, trying to practice together, trying to help each other improve,” said Frida, who regularly engages in a most-birdies-made game with her brother even as he travels around the world as a professional.
It’s a gratifying thing for a coach to watch a team come together, and Bond saw this Florida State squad building for the past few years. Kinhult was a big piece, but three of the four newcomers were ranked inside the top 33 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking when Bond signed them. All of them were international players.
Kinhult put in her acceptance call to Bond in February 2017. Earlier that day, Florida State had gone 12 under at its home event. Bond remembers securing that commitment as one of the proudest moments of her career.
“We got a lot of no’s prior to that,” Bond said of the recruiting dance. It opened up the funds to build a team of wonder-freshman that have logged two of Florida State’s largest-ever victories – the Darius Rucker Intercollegiate and the Evans Derby Experience.
If Kinhult, 19, hadn’t come to college this year, she knew she’d be grinding on the Ladies European Tour. College golf just had more to offer her.
“For the moment, I don’t believe the LET is good enough,” she said. “I don’t really see the future out there. I see the future over here on the LPGA Tour.”
And therein lies the compromise that Bond knows she may have to make. Kinhult is up front about most things. She’ll come off the course and admit to “hitting a wedge like a 25-handicapper” during a not-so-stellar round. In that spirit, she was honest with Bond that she likely wasn’t going to be at Florida State for four years.
“In 18 years of coaching, I’ve never had a player not graduate, so it was a tough pill to swallow,” Bond said.
Kinhult will likely get a pass into the second stage of LPGA Q-School next fall as one of the top 5-ranked collegians in the country. Bond knows that has to be part of the deal. If it’s not, she says, then college golf is false advertising.
“Our main job is to get these kids ready for professional golf, and when they get to that point, you have to let them go – as hard as it is,” Bond said.
Kinhult already has registered for classes in the fall, so another semester, at least, looks likely. The Seminoles, and the rest of college golf, better sleep with one eye open.