By John Feltman
Golf is considered to be one of the most difficult sports to master at a high level. It’s a game that requires discipline, training and dedication. For UT sophomore Kiira Riihijarvi, it’s safe to say she was born to play golf.
Riihijarvi was honored as a Women’s Golf Coaches Association (WGCA) All-American after her first season at UT. The Finland native finished the 2016-2017 season with four top 10 finishes. Because the sport can be challenging at times, Missey Jones, head coach of Women’s Golf said that Riihijarvi’s is an enormous feat.
“I knew from the first few practices that she would be an All-American at some point,” Jones said. “Having a player like Kiira raises all our standards, aspirations and goals,”
Jones has been a coach at UT for the last seven years, having over twenty-eight years of coaching experience between women’s basketball and golf. She became the first head coach of the women’s golf team in 2010. She said a player with Riihijarvi’s caliber does not come around often.
Riihijarvi has been playing golf for the last 10 years. It’s always been something that has been a major part of her life, she said She has spent her offseason at home in Finland improving her game each day as the 2017-2018 season is right around the corner.
“I would consider myself a leader on the golf course, not so much off,” Riihijarvi said. “I’ve been practicing and getting better over the summer and I’m just hoping it’ll pay off when our season starts.”
With the women’s golf team entering their seventh season, they are always looking for ways to expand and strengthen their program, said Jones. After a dominating season by Riihijarvi, it’s easy to appoint her as the face of the team, according to Jones. With three more seasons of play, the sky is the limit for UT’s program and Riihijarvi, Jones said
“She knows how to get it done,” Jones said. “She is a real pleasure to coach, and is the example of our goal to practice with a purpose.”
According to Coach Jones, as the pressure intensifies, Riihijarvi still finds a way to perform at a high level.
“Kiira is a quiet leader. She leads by example,” Jones said., “All young college kids like to go out and she even has balance when she does that.”
With sports and academics sometimes becoming a conflict in a student athlete’s life, the difference between a successful student athlete and a under-achiever is balance. A high-level player like Riihijarvi knows how time consuming golf can be.
“A typical practice day is a couple hours of practice and then go play, if needed I’ll practice a little more after the round,” Riihjarvi said, “Golf is a big part of my life and it takes up most of my free time.”
With her UT career just beginning; Riihijarvi is already looking ahead to the future. She plans on becoming a professional golfer once her collegiate career is finished. As she continues to practice each day for the upcoming season, Riihijarvi will look to show the rest of the SSC conference why she was named an All-American as a freshman.
John Feltman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org