TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Kiira Riihijarvi pulled the exquisite invitation with the wax seal from the mailbox.
“I was not quite sure if I was going to get it,” admitted Riihijarvi, “but I was thinking maybe, possibly. I was hoping but it was still a surprise when I got it.”
She qualified for the Augusta National Women’s Amateur, which highlights the top amateur golfers in the world.
“I was so excited,” said Riihijarvi, a 23-year-old golfer at the University of Tampa. “It is such an amazing opportunity. Such a small amount of people get the invitation or even get to play that course ever.”
The tournament is scheduled to start on Wednesday, March 31. The first two rounds will occur at the Champions Retreat Golf Club in Augusta, Georgia. Then, every player will have the opportunity to play a practice round at the Augusta National Golf Club, the home of the Masters. The top 30 players will play the final round there too.
Riihijarvi has never played there. She has actually only seen the course on television.
“I am a little terrified by it. The pros make it look easier,” she said, “but it is definitely going to be a challenging course. Apparently, the greens are something out of this world but I am excited for the challenge.”
Riihijarvi took an interest in the sport after watching her father play it.
She started swinging the club when she was about 9 years old and has not stopped.
“I have a really big commitment to golf,” she said, “so that is why a lot of the decisions in my life have led me to golf first. That is the biggest reason why I am in the United States just to pursue my golfing career.”
Her career pulled her from her home in Finland to Georgia when she was a senior in high school. She is currently in her fifth year at the University of Tampa where she is playing golf and pursuing a master’s degree.
“I love Tampa. It is such a pretty city and the weather is just perfect at all times,” said Riihijarvi. “I love being here and I like the size of the city. It is not too big. It is not too small. It is like a hidden gem in Florida.”
She raved about her college coach and her college teammates too. Riihijarvi actually plans to have one of her teammates, Sophia Cadavid, caddie for her at the Augusta National Women’s Amateur.
“I was so excited to tell her,” said Riihijarvi. “Yes, there was a little bit of screaming and a few tears but she was excited. I know it is going to mean a lot to her too because she loves golf more than anybody I know.”
Although Riihijarvi chose her teammate to be her caddie, she is still hopeful her primary caddie, her dad, will be there cheering for her.
“He always supports me,” said Riihijarvi. “I am trying to bring my parents but it is still unclear if they will be able to come from Finland but we will see. I am hoping they will be able to.”
Yes, she is hopeful because, in her words, the invitation to participate in the Augusta National Women’s Amateur is “one of the biggest achievements” of her golfing career.