By Barrett Segesta
Big 12 Campus Correspondent
Like many students going off to college, the adjustments for Sanna Nuutinen were not very easy. But for her, this transition was not due to the challenging academics or the inability to make new friends. Coming from Finland, Nuutinen was having some trouble taking in the American way of life all at once.
“The beginning wasn’t too bad because everything was so exciting and new,” Nuutinen said. “The hardest year was maybe my junior year. I started to really realize what I missed most at home.
“The experience opens your eyes and shows you what you actually appreciate back home. The people here are different and so is the whole culture. Some of the social cues were a bit of a change because things like small talk isn’t big in Finland.”
Although Nuutinen is a very independent and self-motivated player, she states that a couple of her older teammates, also from overseas, helped guide her through the transition to America. Whether it was advice on her golf game or just help with everyday life, a fellow Horned Frog was there to help her out.
“When I was a freshman, one of my teammates who was a junior helped me out a bit,” Nuutinen explained. “Sometimes we would have conversations about how to adapt here and understanding what the coach wants from us. We came from a completely different culture that is not nearly as competitive as America. Overall, she was a big help.”
America may have been a more competitive environment than Nuutinen was used to, but she was no stranger to aggressive play on the golf course. Growing up, Nuutinen played in many tournaments across Europe and often traveled with the Finland national team. This experience morphed Nuutinen into a fierce and focused competitor. Come tournament time, Nuutinen is ready to quietly tear through the competition and finish at the top of each tournament.
TCU women’s golf coach Angie Ravaioli-Larkin agrees that Nuutinen is a unique player who has the sheer will and determination to excel as a player.
"Sanna has been a great leader by example,” coach Ravaioli-Larkin admires. “She is the ultimate competitor and thrives on pressure situations. Her determination, commitment, talent and mental toughness will take her to the top. She has had a very good year, yet her best golf is still in front of her."
As the only senior, Nuutinen has stood out to her coach and teammates as a strong leader for the team. The numerous tournaments that she has played in and the individual Mountain Western Championship that Nuutinen won in the 2011-12 season makes her a player for teammates to look up to and seek advice from.
A player who is vocal and leads by example is something any coach would die to have on their team. It is an ability that cannot necessarily be taught but rather earned through self-dedication and the want to make others around you better. Luckily for TCU, Nuutinen over her illustrious four-year career has given back the help and advice she received when she was just a freshman. Nuutinen may be modest about her success and role on the team but others would tell a different story.
"She is the only senior this year, so she is really the pillar of the team and really tries to share her thoughts on how to make us better,” teammate Alexandra Bonetti said. “She is a hard worker. You see her confidence, and it makes us become more confident as a team when you see her really ready to play."
With the 2014 season coming to a close, Nuutinen hopes to give her team a late season push into post-season tournament play. After Nuutinen’s college career is over, she has big plans to become a part of the LPGA Tour. The competitive edge and her ability to always strive for greatness will contribute greatly to her future success in her professional career.
“I have enjoyed the school and my classes. The degree really means something, especially from TCU,” Nuutinen said. “Golf has been interesting playing as a team and I have learned a lot working with others. Playing as a team, I have learned how to become a leader and I grew more into that role.
“Coach always talks about team synergy and that is something we try to achieve,” Nuutinen said. “Once you get older you learn how to properly comment on someone’s game and coach gives you more responsibility. I have embraced that role.”Sadly, the TCU women’s golf team will lose a one of a kind player at the end of this season, but the future is still bright. Hopefully the teachings and leadership of Nuutinen has rubbed off on one of her younger peers who will one day take the same role. Until the next leader takes the helm, one can only stand back and admire the progression of Nuutinen as the young student from overseas adjusting to a strange new life to the hungry leader who pushed her teammates towards greatness.