If Ingrid Lindblad needs to get her mind off golf, LSU coaches Garrett Runion and Alexis Rather know just the trick: buy her a jigsaw puzzle.
The Swedish senior is somewhat of a puzzle master – 1,000 pieces, 5,000 pieces, you name it. She recently completed one so big that she put it together on her bedroom floor. She’s also big into diamond painting. Think paint by numbers, only with tiny gemstones.
When she’s on the road, Lindblad often travels with a bag of jewels, tweezers, and her canvas rolled up in her backpack.
“It’s like gluing salt on a piece of paper,” Runion says. “It’s the most tedious, crazy thing, but at the end, it’s this big landscape and it shimmers.”
Runion, of course, could’ve been talking about Lindblad’s golf game.
Ranked second in the World Amateur Golf Ranking and fourth in Golfstat, Lindblad is poised to earn first-team All-America honors for the fourth straight year. She’s won a whopping 11 times for the Tigers, overpowering both golf courses and competitors with the rotational force of a figure skater; Lindblad spent eight years on the ice before quitting at age 14. But perhaps more telling of her dominance at the collegiate level is that in her 35 career starts, she’s finished worse than T-11 just three times.
“It’s been very enjoyable to have someone who you can count on for basically an automatic top-10,” Runion said. “She is the most consistent person I know.”
Since she’s arrived on campus in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Lindblad has practically lived at the Tigers’ practice facility at the University Club. The only period where she didn’t turn on and off the lights were the first few weeks of her freshman year; the ultra-independent Lindblad didn’t own a car, relying instead on teammates for rides to and from the course.
Once she purchased the keys to a red Volvo, she was full speed ahead.
And she’s yet to slow down.
THESE DAYS, IT'S ALL about fine-tuning what is already a well-oiled machine. Lindblad is known for her high-ball, ball-striking ability, but she also ranked eighth in strokes gained-putting at last year’s U.S. Women’s Open, where she was low amateur at T-11.
Her current target area for growth: She hits her lag putts too hard, and she could stand to take advantage of a few more “in-positions,” which are looks from inside 20 feet, the distance where 85% of birdies come from.
“I hit a lot of greens and a lot of greens inside 20 feet,” Lindblad explains, “but I don’t make a lot of putts inside 20 feet.”
Runion adds that Lindblad aims for seven to eight in-positions per round, and that one or two more birdie conversions from 12 to 18 feet, or “mid-range jumpers,” would be scary for Lindblad’s opponents. Not that the Swede’s skillset isn’t intimidating already.
“She’s going to make a lot of money with her longer clubs,” Runion exclaims.
Lindblad could’ve done that years ago. But while countrywomen Frida Kinhult, Maja Stark and Linn Grant all left school prior to their junior seasons, Lindblad chose to stay in school, bypassing not only potential LPGA paydays but also endorsement dollars; as an international student, she’s currently unable to benefit from name, image and likeness.
She’s planning on at least one additional semester, too. Lindblad will return for a fifth year this fall before going through LPGA Q-School. Should she get to Q-Series and earn status, she’ll turn pro. If not, she’ll come back for the spring.
Runion knows the likelihood of the latter occurring is slim, which could leave his squad thinner for the second half of next season. It’s a small concession, however, for the biggest star in program history.
“I know there are coaches who would say, well, you’re taking away a spot and keeping other players from getting experience, and they’re not wrong,” Runion said. “But everything that she’s done for this program, she’s earned the right to do that. And I’ve always said, when she’s ready to turn pro, I’m going to give her a hug and a kiss and wish her well, because she certainly could’ve done it a long time ago.”
Lindblad isn’t usually one for sentimentality. A locked-in competitor, she possesses a hard shell and rarely talks just for the sake of talking. If she gives a compliment, she means it. But as her time in college begins to wind down, Lindblad has been more intentional about soaking in every ounce of her remaining moments as an amateur. From the simplest, such as attending other LSU sporting events, to the most meaningful, notably this spring’s NCAA postseason – the Lindblad-led Tigers are still searching for their first national match-play appearance – and this week’s Augusta National Women’s Amateur, where Lindblad has finished T-3 and T-2 in each of the past two years.
“She’s starting to understand that her college run is almost over, and she’s starting to miss it,” Runion said. “We’ve definitely seen her laugh a little bit more and enjoy these moments a little bit more.”
ENTERING LAST SPRING'S ANWA, Lindblad was scorching hot, having won three of her past four college events. She then orchestrated a serious final-round charge at Augusta National, carding three birdies and two eagles to post the round of the day, a 4-under 68, which ultimately left her a shot shy of champion Anna Davis.
Had it not been for Latanna Stone, her LSU teammate and former roommate, playing her last two holes in 3 over to finish a disappointing co-runner-up, Lindblad would’ve left Georgia that Saturday elated. But that wasn’t the case as she watched Stone’s final holes on a clubhouse television.
“I almost started crying,” Lindblad said. “It was so hard to watch.”
Stone’s chance at redemption will be followed closely this week. Lindblad’s story arc at this prestigious championship, though not as dramatic, also offers a good dose of potential salvation.
Two years ago, Lindblad didn’t card a final-round birdie until Augusta National’s 13th hole. Two holes later, she three-putted the 15th green and walked away with a disappointing par. A birdie there would’ve put her in a playoff with Emilia Migliaccio and eventual winner Tsubasa Kajitani.
Last year, it was a second-round 77 at Champions Retreat that put Lindblad in what proved to be an insurmountable hole.
This week, Lindblad arrives in Augusta for her final ANWA arguably, at least by her standards, under the radar. Stanford sophomore Rose Zhang, the world’s top amateur who is fast approaching G.O.A.T. status, has won five times this season and is the prohibitive favorite in what also figures to be her swan song. Davis and Kajitani are vying for second titles. Wake Forest’s Rachel Kuehn and Georgia’s Jenny Bae are ranked ahead of Lindblad in the college rankings.
And Lindblad? She’s won just twice in seven starts this season. Talk about a slump.
Kidding aside, Lindblad might not be at her sharpest, but she still wields quite the sword. She opened the Tigers’ event at Clemson this past weekend in 3-over 75, the worst score on the team, before shaving eight shots off that number with a bogey-free, second-round 67. She rallied with a final-round 69 to share medalist honors.
When Lindblad was a recruit deciding between LSU and Kentucky, coached by fellow Swede Golda Borst, she was swayed by the challenge of stepping out of her comfort zone. Not only did her English markedly improve, but inside the ropes, when her swing feels off or the putts aren’t falling, Lindblad, an avid guitar player, doesn’t fret.
“A couple years ago, anxiety would’ve been a little bit higher if she wasn’t hitting it as good,” Runion said. “Everybody thinks you have to be perfect, make every 30-footer, and now she’s like, I don’t have to. I can still go out there on a bad day, shoot 72, and still be in the tournament, and then find something the last round or last few holes.”
Lindblad’s ANWA gameplan doesn’t require exactness either: minimize mistakes around the greens, avoid three-putts, and if – or when – she gets on Augusta National’s greens, read the breaks correctly.
Two weeks ago, Lindblad and Runion made a short drive to watch the Tigers men’s team compete. Runion said that Lindblad was surprised at how sloppy some of the play was, and they both wondered where Lindblad, who played midfield as the only girl on her school’s soccer team as a kid, would finish in that field playing from the same distance.
“I don’t know if I want to even say [a number] because it’d piss off a lot of men,” Runion said, “but she could’ve finished well in that event just from a smarts standpoint.”
It's no surprise that Runion often compares Lindblad to Sam Burns, who starred for two years in Baton Rouge.
“The stories I tell about Sam,” Runion adds, “I have a feeling I’ll be telling similar stories about Ingrid.”
Not even Burns, though, can match Lindblad’s college accomplishments. In LSU history, men or women, no player has more wins, top-10s or first-team All-America nods as Lindblad. Burns’ career scoring average, a program men’s record, was 71.13; Lindblad sat at 70.49 entering this season.
Lindblad also has an SEC individual title to her credit, medaling last spring to lead LSU to its first conference crown in 30 years.
And in amateur competition, she’s captured prestigious trophies at both levels, the Annika Invitational as a junior player and the European Ladies Amateur individual title two summers ago.
In puzzle speak, Lindblad’s amateur career is missing but only a few pieces, most notably NCAA hardware and an ANWA silver bowl.
Of course, if she can solve one of major golf’s most meticulous tests come Saturday evening, she’ll acquire one of them.