Logan Wilson is a reporter for WholeHogSports.com.
WholeHogSports Student-Athlete of the Year:
Start to finish, Cappelen strong in '13
Arkansas Razorback Sebastian Cappelen tees off of second hole during a playoff in his match play against Robby Shelton during the Western Amateur at the Alotian Club in Roland.
FAYETTEVILLE Arkansas senior golfer Sebastian Cappelen finished 2013 at the Patriot All-America Invitational in Litchfield, Ariz., a tournament he won on the final day of 2012.
Cappelen, a native of Odense, Denmark, tied for third at the tournament with fellow Arkansas golfer Taylor Moore to cap his year full of accolades. He credited the victory at the tournament at the end of 2012 with jump-starting the success he had in 2013.
“I think it led to an overall boost to my career and I got to a level where everything started to make more sense,” said Cappelen, who was voted the WholeHogSports Student-Athlete of the Year by a panel of reporters. “I was able to focus on the smaller things and didn’t have to worry about big swing changes or any other big changes that needed in place to get me to play better over a longer period of time.
“I’m at a level now where I know where I am, I know what I can shoot and I know what I’m not going to shoot. It’s comforting to know exactly where you are.”
He finished the final round of the 2012 invitational with a 16-foot putt for birdie on the 18th hole to oust UNLV’s Kevin Penner.
“I knew it ended up being sort of a head-to-head match with Kevin, who won in front of me at the Western Refining (College All-America Golf Classic) and then I played with him in one of the first two rounds here at the Patriot,” Cappelen said. “I knew he was right there in the top two. What I didn’t know was that the birdie won it until everyone told me after I hit it. I wanted to beat Kevin at the Western Refining, but he held out that one and won, but this time it was mine turn. So that ended up being a really fun experience.
“I thought the birdie would tie for first place, so I was just excited to head into the playoff, but once I made it, everyone told me that I had won it, so I was really relieved.”
Following the Patriot All-America Invitational to end 2012, Cappelen picked up his junior season in February at the Gator Invitational, where he started a streak of seven top-20 finishes in eight tournaments, including winning the 2013 Southeastern Conference individual championship.
Like the 2012 Patriot, Cappelen won the SEC title in dramatic fashion. The conditions during that tournament in St. Simmons Island, Ga. were much different than those in Arizona, however.
Cappelen described the weather at the Patriot America Invitational as “ideal for golf” during the eight days he has been in Arizona with fellow Razorback golfer Taylor Moore. The temperature has been between the 60s and 70s with no wind and sunny skies -- nothing like the SEC Championship.
“That required a completely different mindset,” Cappelen said of the SEC Championship. “In that one, I was really just trying to keep the ball straight the entire day and see where it would take me. The wind was blowing about 25 or 30 miles per hour, so I knew it was going to be tough for everyone and making the least amount of bogeys was going to be the key.”
Cappelen entered the final round with a four-stroke deficit but turned in a bogey-free round. All 18 of his shots hit the green and 16 of them hit the fairway.
He shot 8-under in the three-day event, including a 4-under 66 on the final day. Cappelen took the lead from South Carolina’s Caleb Sturgeon by hitting birdie putts on the 16th and 17th holes in the final round. Sturgeon triple-bogeyed on the 16th hole to fall four strokes behind Cappelen.
“The fact that I didn’t have any bogeys ended up being crucial for me,” Cappelen said. “I just stayed on the game plan during that tournament and that was another key. I didn’t get distracted by the scores or the fact that it was the SEC Championship, I just stayed in my processes and took it all shot-by-shot.
“Considering the conditions, I don’t really think it was possible for me to do any better. That’s one of the highlights of my career. I mean when I’m not playing well, that level is where I try to get back to.”
Cappelen became the second Razorback to win the SEC individual championship and first since Bud Still did it in 1995. Cappelen’s 54-hole score of 202 is the second-best in program history.
“He was flawless,” Arkansas coach Brad McMakin said of Cappelen’s conference title-clinching performance. “He made it look like he was playing in the desert in Arizona on a sunny day. It was so easy and he was so calm. It was as good of a round as I’ve ever seen.
“Buddy Alexander, the coach at Florida, he’s one of the best coaches, if not the best coach to ever coach golf. He called me after that day and he said ‘I can’t believe what that kid did in those conditions. That may be the best golf I’ve ever seen.’”
Cappelen finished the 2012-2013 season by tying for 14th place at the Fayetteville Regional and tying for 16th at the NCAA Championships in Atlanta. He made the semifinals of the Western Amateur in August at the Alotian Club in Maumelle and the round of 32 at the U.S. Amateur in North Carolina two weeks later.
He entered the 2013-14 season, his senior season with the Razorbacks, as the program’s all-time stroke leader with an average of 72.0 and he has posted a 71.5 average in five tournaments so far. Cappelen has finished in the top 16 in all five tournaments, including winning the Crooked Stick Intercollegiate in Carmel, Ind.
Cappelen was named a PING All-American and PING All-Central Region player for the third time in 2013. He also earned All-SEC honors for the third time in his career, receiving first-team all-conference recognition for the second straight season. But Cappelen credited his coach, McMakin, with his development as a golfer.
“He taught me how to turn in a score, how to play golf, know how to really break golf down into different parts and learn each and every part,” Cappelen said. “He taught me that I will have good days and have bad days, but mentally, he taught me how to handle situations on the golf course that I probably handled wrong before. He helped give me a better perspective on how I approach each month, week, round and shot. He taught me how to mentally prepare for tournaments, how to turn around bad rounds and how to not end up turning in a high score when I’m not having my best day.
“He’s really just made me into a better golfer and I can’t thank him enough.”
When Cappelen stepped onto campus his freshman year, McMakin knew he already had the talent to become a four-time All-American, which he could do this season. Where McMakin said he has seen Cappelen mature the most is in the mental aspect of the game.
“He’s always had incredible physical skills, but he was a little bit of a hothead and had a little bit of a temper. But he’s learned to calm down and move forward,” McMakin said. “Golf is a tough sport and he has learned how to handle tough situations really well and not dwell on them.
“He’s as good of a player as I have ever seen.”
The Denmark native sacrificed his spot on the national team to continue pursuing his collegiate career. And though his time as a Razorback will expire in May, McMakin said Cappelen will leave an everlasting legacy at Arkansas.
“Fortunately for us, he put the University of Arkansas in front of the national team,” McMakin said. “That’s very rare for a foreign player because they generally grow up around their national team and are very dedicated to them. But even though he could have been playing all over the world, he has been 100 percent dedicated to the University of Arkansas.
“He loves the University of Arkansas. He went to every home football and basketball game and other athletic events like volleyball, too. He is a supporter of the school and he will be a big ambassador for our school because he is going to make his home in Fayetteville and practice at the Blessings.
“He’s been the best player we’ve had in 20 years. Sebastian will be a four-time All-American and he also put in the time to get a degree. He takes school very seriously and made a 4.0 this semester and I think he carries about a 3.6 or 3.7 GPA in economics. He spends a great deal of time in the classroom because it is very important to him. But once he gets freed from that and can focus even more time and energy on golf, I can’t see him not being unbelievably successful on the PGA Tour or wherever he decides to play.
“I don’t want to see him leave, but I’m excited to see what he does in his professional career. I think it will be fun for fans to follow.”
Newcomer of the Year: Alex Collins, Football
Although the Arkansas football team set an unfortunate record with nine consecutive losses, the most in school history, the Razorbacks found a bright spot in their freshman tailback.
Running back Alex Collins became just the second Razorback to rush for 1,000 yards as a freshman. Darren McFadden is the other Arkansas running back to do so. McFadden rushed for 1,113 yards on 176 carries during his freshman season in 2005 before becoming the back-to-back Doak Walker award-winner and Heisman runner-up in 2006 and 2007.
Collins rushed for 100-plus yards in four of the Razorbacks' first five games and became the first freshman to rush for 100 yards in three consecutive games since Adrian Peterson did it at Oklahoma in 2004.
The Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. native was named the Associated Press' Southeastern Conference Freshman of the Year and also landed a spot on the Freshman All-American team and the All-SEC freshman team. Collins finished the season with 1,026 rushing yards and four touchdowns on 190 carries and added 11 receptions for 63 yards to account for a team-high 1,089 all-purpose yards.