Mathiesen finds ideal fit at Wright State after honing game in Qatar

Wright State's Mikkel Mathiesen surveys a putt during the Wright State Invitational at Heatherwoode Golf Course last month. Wright State Athletics photo

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Wright State's Mikkel Mathiesen surveys a putt during the Wright State Invitational at Heatherwoode Golf Course last month. Wright State Athletics photo

FAIRBORN — Wright State golfer Mikkel Mathiesen doesn’t really have a weakness in his game. But if there’s a club in his bag that occasionally misbehaves, it’s his driver.

“I’ve been struggling a little bit,” he said. “It’s normally never bad. But there’s usually a few holes where I lose it a little bit right or left.”

In the Horizon League tournament, though, he was consistently splitting fairways. He missed only nine greens in 54 holes and set records for the lowest round with a 65 and total score with a 13-under-par 203 in leading the Raiders to the title.

No one had ever shot better than 210 in the 42-year history of the event.

“I found something in my swing, which gave me confidence to get around there,” he said, referring to the 6,765-yard, par-72 El Campeon Course in Howey-in-the-Hills, Fla.

“You really need to be in play off the tee, and my driver was essential. You can have a lot of wedges in there, but you have to be in the fairway to take advantage of that. My driver was by far the best club in my bag.”

Mathiesen (pronounced MATH-ess-son) had just one bogey and one double bogey in the tourney, and he’s playing the best golf of his career going into the NCAA Regionals on May 16-18 at the Ohio State Scarlet Course.

His league scores won’t be easy to duplicate since the Buckeyes’ layout is 7,422 yards and only a par-71. But he likely can handle the pressure of competing against 12 of the best teams in the nation.

He survived local qualifying for the U.S. Open to advance to the next stage. He was one of 120 golfers vying for seven spots at Scioto Reserve Country Club in Powell, Ohio, on May 2 and shot 66 to finish third.

He’ll face similar odds at the final qualifier at Springfield Country Club on June 6.

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Mikkel Mathiesen, WSU golf

Credit: Erin Pence

Mikkel Mathiesen, WSU golf

Credit: Erin Pence

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Mikkel Mathiesen, WSU golf

Credit: Erin Pence

Credit: Erin Pence

The lanky junior — he was born in Denmark but moved to Qatar before his first birthday — also played his way into the Qatar Masters on the DP World Tour (formerly European Tour) in March by finishing first in an amateur tournament that offered a spot to the winner in the field.

It was held at his home course in Doha, and while he shot 75-81 to miss the cut, he was pleased just to tee it up against grizzled pros.

“The set-up we played was by far the hardest I’ve ever played it,” he said. “It was 7,466 yards, and all the pins were back and tucked, so it was playing more like 7,600.

“The tees were all the way back, and the rough was grown out. It was definitely tough. I hit the ball fine, but I just didn’t score very well.”

Mathiesen, who speaks impeccable English (he went to a British high school in Qatar), has been going home in the summers and has always loved the year-’round golf weather.

“It gets a little hot in July and August, like 110 or 120 degrees. But I still play,” he said.

His average of 71.42 this season is on pace to break the current program record, though he may have to settle for second on the all-time list since teammate Tyler Goecke is at 70.47.

That’s still not too shabby for someone who had to practically beg his way onto the team.

An organization called Next Collegiate Student Athlete gave him guidance on the process, and he sent emails to about 10 colleges.

Brian Arlinghaus, who was the coach then (he left for Xavier after last season), was one of the few who responded. He admitted he almost hit the delete button because he gets contacted by so many international players, but the Raiders are glad he took a second look.

“I posted some swing videos. I think that’s what caught his eye,” Mathiesen said. “He liked what I wrote in my resumé. I’m not sure what he saw in me, but I’m thankful he saw something.

“The guys on this team are awesome. I would not be here if it wasn’t for them. I love these guys.”

First-year coach Conner Lash typically roams the course during a round, trying to encourage players during rough patches.

Mathiesen, though, seldom needs support.

In 31 rounds, he’s shot 75 or worse just four times and has seven scores in the 60s.

“He never gets in trouble. His swing is fundamentally sound. I think all these guys — but especially Mikkel — work so hard. And when you work hard, that’s where your confidence comes from,” Lash said.

“You can’t really pick one thing with him (that stands out). He’s just a good player and loves to play golf.”

The Raiders have qualified for two of the last three regionals (the 2020 tourney was cancelled). And while they were overmatched in 2019, they won’t be satisfied with anything less than a top-five finish, which would send them to the NCAA nationals May 27-June 1 at Grayhawk G.C. in Scottsdale, Ariz.

All five players were medalists in 2021-22 — Goecke has four wins, Mathiesen two and Bryce Haney, Cole Corder and Davis Root one each.

And they don’t have much of a gap between one and five. Haney averages 72.26, Corder 72.53 and Root 73.41.

Teams count their four best scores each day, and the Raiders may be more equipped than most to avoid a high number.

“We all work super hard. And we have a coach who wants to be there for us all the time. He compliments us so much,” Mathiesen said.

“Our lineup has been incredible. I couldn’t imagine a better starting five.”

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