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Young Norwegian Amateur Aiming for the Top.

The path to a career as a professional golfer has evolved significantly over the past three decades. In the days of Severiano Ballesteros and Miguel Ángel Jiménez, it was through the caddie ranks. Subsequently – in Spain at least – José María Olazábal was among the first to fine-tune his game as a globetrotting amateur before turning professional, followed by the likes of Sergio García.

Today many promising young amateurs – both from Spain and elsewhere in Europe and the rest of the world – secure a university scholarship in the United States where they can combine studying for a degree with intensive golf coaching and tournament play. Such was the course taken by Jon Rahm and Azahara Muñoz, for example. Meanwhile, other potential young stars of the future have opted not to pursue tertiary education and have taken the plunge as a professional straight out of high school, or shortly after.

For Tina Mazarino – Norway’s top ranked amateur women golfer, who has been practising regularly on the Costa del Sol for the past seven years and spoke to Andalucía Golf at Los Arqueros Golf & Country Club in February – the choice is clear. When she celebrates her 19th birthday in July 2019 and loses her junior status she plans to turn pro immediately. In the meantime, 17-year-old Tina is accumulating an impressive tally of amateur achievements.

She started playing golf in 2007 at the age of six, encouraged by her golfer father Per. “I’ve always been very active and really been into sports. I tried handball and gymnastics but they weren’t my thing. When I was around 10 (just after scoring her first hole-in-one) I started playing tournaments and that’s when I told my parents I wanted to turn professional and become one of the best in the world.”

In the following years she became club junior and outright champion in 2011, represented Norway in the 2013 and 2014 Evian Junior Championships, won numerous junior tour events and the under-19 order of merit, triumphed in the Norwegian Match Pay Championship while still only 16, represented Norway in the European Girls Championship and won the OOM Norges CUP (top elite tour in Norway). Currently playing off a 1.2-handicap, she is hoping to be selected as Norway’s representative in the Junior Olympics this year while continuing to gain experience in both junior and open tournaments around Europe. For the moment Tina discounts the option of going to university.

“A lot of Norwegians go to college in the States but I’ve always just wanted to turn professional and play golf. I can go back if something happens or I want to study later. I think this is my one chance to turn professional and really go for it. I want to be good at a young age – it’s my passion.”

Fulfilling that passion is serious business. In addition to training camps back in Norway and winters practising on the Costa del Sol, she is home-schooled by her teacher mother Beate, has a professional coach in Marbella (as well as her father), and a mental coach and physical trainer, and enjoys kickboxing in her spare time – although just for the exercise, not the fighting aspect.

At the end of 2017 she competed in a pre-qualifier for the Ladies European Tour qualifying school in Morocco, and finished a creditable 48th, being well in contention until a slip-up in the fourth and final round. “I went there just to see how it is and learn from it… it was a really good experience and I think it’s going to be easier for me next time.”

That next time will be the end of this year, when she seeks LET qualification again. Looking further ahead, her aim is try out for U.S. LPGA Tour qualification in 2019. “That’s my dream, to play on the LPGA Tour and do very well there.” Asked if she aspired to emulate the feats of Norway’s top star, Suzann Pettersen, she laughed and replied. “Yeah, definitely, winning majors, number one in the world. That’s my dream. I want to be the best.”

She already has an LPGA mentor in Spain’s Beatriz Recari, whose caddie and partner is Norwegian and who shares a physical trainer with Tina. They keep in regular contact and Recari sends a congratulatory message when the young Norwegian does well in a tournament.

Tina and her parents – who rented a home near the Benahavís course this winter – said they greatly appreciated receiving support from Los Arqueros. “I play the course almost every day. It’s a really nice course, I like it, and it’s challenging for me. Everyone here is really nice and welcome me with open arms.”

In fact, Tina wishes she could spend more time in Spain. “I want to stay here forever. I love it, I really do, especially the weather. The worst days here can be like the whole summer in Norway!”

(Source: Andalucia Golf magazine article)