Culture shock wasn't going to prevent Mathias Dahl from playing collegiate golf in the United States. For more than 10 years, Dahl proved he could excel on golf courses across his native Sweden while playing in amateur tournaments.
A new challenge beckoned for Dahl, one that's found him starring for the burgeoning Glendale Community College men's team. Since moving from Sweden last summer, Dahl has mastered English, quickly overcome any hardships residing in the United States and continued his dominance striking golf balls on 18-hole courses.
All is well for the freshman Dahl.
"I'd never been to the United States and my family was still in Sweden," Dahl said. "The first couple of weeks were tough for me because I didn't really know anybody.
"Then, I was able to meet some new people and build friendships with them on and off the course. I can't complain. I enjoy living here."
Dahl said he received a 90% scholarship last spring to play at the University of Central Oklahoma, an NCAA Division II program piloted by Coach Dax Johnston. However, Johnston reportedly resigned for personal reasons, leaving Dahl in a temporary bind and scrambling to make new plans to pursue other endeavors.
Dahl, who attended golf school in Sweden, wasn't going to relinquish his aspiration of playing golf in North America. He received a recommendation from a friend to consider moving to the West Coast to play for Glendale college, which advanced to the state tournament for the first time in the program's history last season. Glendale brought back the majority of its lineup under Coach Greg Osbourne, who also hit the recruiting trail with authority, searching for a capable core of freshmen to provide depth.
Dahl didn't pass up the opportunity to meet with Osbourne and several future teammates. Dahl received a warm welcome from his new teammates and earned a spot in the lineup while making slight alterations with his long and short game under Osbourne's watch.
"I'd never heard of GCC, but I saw that it was close to Los Angeles and I wanted to be able to golf in Southern California, where there are a lot of great courses," said Dahl, who was born in Stockholm. "I took a chance coming here, but it's one that I'm glad I did.
"The guys here at GCC have made me welcome and we have a team that's been doing well."
Said Osbourne: "It's been a pretty easy adjustment for him coming here from Sweden. I think he felt comfortable right off the bat here."
Dahl leads the Western State Conference with a scoring average of 70. The Vaqueros are in second place in conference behind College of the Canyons with a 36-hole conference final set for Monday at Marshallia Ranch Golf Course in Lompoc. The top two teams from conference, plus the next lowest team score, automatically qualify for the Southern California Regionals.
"He's got a lot of talent," Osbourne said. "He knows his swing and the bottom line is that he's stepped up and contributed a lot to our team."
At a conference match Monday at Santa Maria Golf Course, Dahl shared medalist honors with teammate Michael Timpson by recording a two-under-par 70 and helped the Vaqueros best College of the Canyons by one stroke (365-366). Dahl recorded 10 pars and five birdies.
In another conference match April 11 at San Dimas Golf Course, Dahl shot a four-under-par 68, which included an eagle, to help Glendale finish second. He finished with 11 pars, four birdies and recorded an eagle on the par-five ninth hole just before a steady rain stopped.
Dahl also helped the Vaqueros capture a neutral-site match at Glendora Country Club on March 26, registering a two-under-par 69 in the Vaqueros' first-place finish.
"He's like his own coach out there," Osbourne said. "He can hit the ball plenty far and knock tee shots onto the greens. He has a lot of confidence."
Timpson, a Crescenta Valley High graduate, said it didn't surprise him that Dahl would make the necessary adjustments to learning a new culture and playing golf in the United States.
"You could pretty much see that he had a full concept for the game," said Timpson, the reigning individual conference champion. "He's helped us learn more about the game and he helps us with our swings.
"He's like a teammate and coach on the course. He's a great ball striker and doesn't miss many greens. It's gotten to the point where I expect that from him."
Dahl said he's fared well at adjusting to the different venues and blocking out distractions while lining up for a tee shot or putt.
He won't take anything for granted, either.
"When you are playing, you can't think too much," Dahl said. "You have to focus on your swing and where the ball will end up.
"You have to keep it simple and trust your ability. If you can do that, then you have put yourself in a good situation."