From Finland to the Fairway: Mariel Sutinen’s Path to Golf Greatness


Mariel Sutinen only recently realized her athletic dreams, but they’re already coming true.

Mariel, a 17-year old junior, came to Williston for the first year all the way from Tuusula, Finland. She brings her spectacular talent in golf with her as she approaches her 6th year playing the sport.

Mariel’s path to success is lined with numerous championship trophies and prizes, all of which are on display at her house in Finland. Every summer, Mariel competes against the highest level players at her golf club, Club Talma, in the city of Talma about 40 miles north of the country’s capital, Helsinki.

With all her accolades and awards, one would think Mariel started swinging as soon as she could stand. However, the rising golf phenom started with the sport only five years ago.

On her journey to her current success, Mariel is quick to mention her father, Mika, who is the reason why she started playing in the first place.

“I went to the field with my dad once and I was watching him play,” Mariel explained. “Suddenly he handed me [a club] and wanted me to try it out and I immediately fell in love with it.”

Since that day, Mariel has been playing golf continuously two to three times a week. During when tournaments approach, she makes sure to double up her efforts to assure peak performance. when her hard work pays off, she can see this happiness in her father’s eyes, which means the world to her.

“My favorite memory of playing golf is when I was playing in a tournament and then I set a new record for myself,” Mariel said. “My dad was so proud of me and he looked so happy that made me feel so happy as well.”

When people think of golf, they usually think of it as a relaxed sport and not as competitive as others on campus like lacrosse, soccer, football, and hockey. However, for Mariel and others at her level, the level of competition is extremely high. Still, for her, golf acts as stress relief, a way to make memories with her family and friends while still fighting for first place.

“Golf can be stressful and relaxing, it all depends on how you play it,” said Mariel. “If you are playing for fun to have a good time with your friends then golf is the perfect stress relief sport. However, if you are playing in a tournament then there is a lot of pressure on you because even though it is an individual sport, the score still counts onto the team’s overall achievement, and that determines whether we win or not.”

Mariel said sometimes a bad outing on the links can determine how she feels the rest of the day.

“Sometimes when I’m having a bad day it’s a result of my golf round, and I may feel very frustrated and I don’t want to play anymore,” said Mariel. But the tables can turn just as quickly, she explained. “When it’s one of my good days and my round is going well, it makes me want to keep playing forever.”

Ann Pickrell, Assistant Head of School and Girls Varsity Golf coach, is impressed with Mariel’s talent as well as her temperament.

“She has a really good swing and she is also very patient,” said Pickrell. “She doesn’t get rattled if she misses her shot, but instead she can come back and fix her mistake. She is working on her short game and that is one of the best ways to improve her game.”

However, there are some challenges Mariel had to overcome when she took her game from Finland to the States.

“I think that the biggest challenge for her,” Pickrell explained, “and also the biggest disadvantage for international students coming to the U.S. is that in her country uses the metric systems but in golf here, everything is measured in yards. So she has to do a lot of math in converting the distance. But so far she has been doing a great job and it she is getting used to it.”

Pickrell believes that there is potential for Mariel to pursue golf in college.

“I think she can definitely play at a college level depending on finding the right fit academically,” she said. “There are some schools that [I believe] she can compete at.”