Icelandic golfer makes way to NIU

Jóhanna Lúðvíksdóttir recounts her journey from the Icelandic capital of Reykjavik to DeKalb

Freshman+J%C3%B3hanna+L%C3%BA%C3%B0v%C3%ADksd%C3%B3ttir+practices+at+Rich+Harvest+Farms.++L%C3%BA%C3%B0v%C3%ADksd%C3%B3ttir+took+her++talents+from+Reykjavik+to+DeKalb+to+be+a+part+of+the+NIU+womens+golf+team.

Courtesy of Scott Walstrom/NIU Athletics

Freshman Jóhanna Lúðvíksdóttir practices at Rich Harvest Farms. Lúðvíksdóttir took her talents from Reykjavik to DeKalb to be a part of the NIU women’s golf team.

Skyler Kisellus, Assistant Sports Editor

DeKALB — Freshman women’s golfer Jóhanna Lea Lúðvíksdóttir, pronounced “loo-th-veeks-tottir,” is already accustomed to colder climates, but not the type from the United States.

Raised in Reykjavik, the capital city of Iceland, Lúðvíksdóttir’s youth did not mirror that of the typical American. Iceland and the United States bear many differences in climate, culture and language, among other things.

Iceland utilizes Icelandic as its primary language but practices English on a secondary basis. It also sets itself apart with its daylight hours. 

During the summer months, Iceland experiences nearly 24 hours of daylight. This extended sunlight is later offset when winter comes around. During the winter months, the Nordic nation has short winter days with very few hours of daylight, according to Iceland’s official tourism website.

Lúðvíksdóttir began her golfing career when she was 12 years old. She credits her father and grandmother for sparking her interest in golf. 

“My dad got me into it, my grandma as well,”  Lúðvíksdóttir said. “They both play golf. He’s been a big help, just getting me into it and playing with me and everything.”

Throughout her career, Lúðvíksdóttir has been a recipient of various awards and accolades. Of those, one stands out larger than others.

In June, Lúðvíksdóttir became the first Icelandic golfer to reach the finals of the British Women’s Amateur Championship.

“It was very overwhelming,” Lúðvíksdóttir said. “I felt very supported (by) my family, coaches, boyfriend, and just the whole nation.”

Having defeated five opponents in match-play en route to the finals, Lúðvíksdóttir would finish as the runner-up of the 118th Women’s Amateur Championship at Kilmarnock (Barassie) in Scotland.

Leading up to the championship, recruiting agencies promoted Lúðvíksdóttir to various institutions, including NIU. This prompted women’s golf associate head coach Andrew Frame to initiate the first contact with Lúðvíksdóttir. 

“We got the email and noticed her résumé was outstanding,” Frame said. “Anytime you’re on a national team, you’re at the top of your country. So that obviously stood out.”

Phone and email conversations between Frame and Lúðvíksdóttir confirmed to the coaching staff that she would be a good fit for NIU’s program.

It was her level of play that spoke the most volumes to coaches. 

“She’s highly ranked, she did really well with the British Amateurs, and she’s trending in the right direction,”  women’s golf head coach Kim Kester said.

Ludviksdottir launches a ball at Rich Harvest Farms. Ludviksdottir finished tied for 25th place at the Redbird Invitational on Sept. 5-6. (Courtesy of Scott Walstrom/NIU Athletics)

Moving approximately 3,000 miles to play for Kester’s program, one of Lúðvíksdóttir’s biggest incentives to join the Huskies was the private access to quality practice facilities at Rich Harvest Farms. 

“The facilities here are amazing,” Lúðvíksdóttir said. “Rich Harvest is, just, top quality.”

Rich Harvest Farms serves as NIUs home golf course for both the men’s and women’s golf programs. Located in Sugar Grove, the 18-hole course offers an on-site indoor practice facility for golfers to use throughout the year. Though, this was not the only factor in Lúðvíksdóttir’s college decision. 

“I really like the coaches,” Lúðvíksdóttir said. “It was easy to talk to them.”

After only a few weeks on campus, Lúðvíksdóttir has already received praise for her demeanor on the course. 

“She is a calming influence on everybody,” Frame said. “She doesn’t get too high. She doesn’t get too low. You can’t really tell if she’s six over-par or six under-par.”

With this being her first season playing at the collegiate level, the expectations from coaches remain focused on a smooth transition into college competition.

“It’s an adjustment coming over to the States,” Kester said. “I know the first semester is going to be a little rocky for her. In golf, the numbers speak for themselves.”

Although she bears Icelandic roots, Lúðvíksdóttir is no stranger to American culture. Prior to arriving in DeKalb, Lúðvíksdóttir spent time honing her golfing skills at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla. She graduated from IMG Academy in January of last year.

NIU’s women’s golf program has an impressive history of international recruits. One notable instance dates back to 2013 when Kester and Frame recruited Lena Gautier from France. 

Like Lúðvíksdóttir, Gautier had also been a member of her respective national team. During her Huskie career, Gautier became one of the best players in the history of the program.

“In many cases, our best players have been international players,” Frame said. “We have a good track record of making them fit in and adjust to NIU.”

In her collegiate debut at the Redbird Invitational on Sep. 5-6, Lúðvíksdóttir notched a solid performance of 10-over par and an overall score of 226. She finished the tournament tied for 25th out of 89 golfers.

When off the course, Lúðvíksdóttir finds pleasure in shopping, being outdoors and hiking. 

“I just like the outdoors and moving and working out,” Lúðvíksdóttir said. “Back home, there are a lot of good places to hike.”

Looking back on her career, Lúðvíksdóttir expressed confidence in her driving and putting abilities. Lúðvíksdóttir also stated that the challenge that comes with the sport is what fuels her love for the game.

Lúðvíksdóttir’s next opportunity to compete will be at the Pat Bradley Invitational on Oct. 16-18, providing she qualifies in the coming weeks. Lúðvíksdóttir did not qualify for the upcoming Johnie Imes Invitational.

The Johnie Imes Invitational will take place on Monday, Sep. 27, at The Club at Old Hawthorne in Columbia, Mo.