May 16, 2009
THE HELLBOM FILE
Who: Rebecca Kristina Hellbom
Born: July 26, 1989
Hometown: Vasteras, Sweden
Parents: Dan and Mona Starling Hellbom
Up Next: At NCAA Championships, May 19-23, Baltimore
By Richard Stevens -- Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
To sing or not to sing. To swing or not to swing. Those aren't the questions yet for Lobo Rebecca Hellbom, but they will be. This Lobo can sing. This Lobo can swing a golf club. And she seems to be getting better at both with every note that leaves her lips and every golf ball that jumps off one of her clubs.
"I can see myself as a singer and I can see myself as a golf professional," said the University of New Mexico freshman from Vasteras, Sweden. "I'm happy I can do both, but I know that I have to chose soon in order to become really good at one or the other. I'll have to make up my mind when I get out of college."
Actually, every indication is that Hellbom already is more than good at both singing and golfing and both directions hold a world of promise for this young Lobo. She has played much like a senior during her freshman campaign at UNM and has been so "American Idol" good with the voice stuff that it's difficult to tell which discipline has most impressed her golf coach, Jill Trujillo.
"We knew Rebecca was a music major and she told us she, 'kind of sang opera,'" said Trujillo. "She'd sing a few bars around us, just having fun, so we all went to her first concert. We were dumbfounded. All of the students were good, but Rebecca outsang them. She was amazing. She shined up there on the stage."
Hellbom has shined on the golf course, too. She came to UNM as a rookie to college golf, but Trujillo expected the 5-foot-8 freshman to crack the Lobos' starting lineup. The UNM coach probably wasn't expecting the talented rookie to finish tied for 12th place at last week's NCAA Regional. Hellbom had the fourth-lowest total score among the participating freshmen at the regional and punctuated her final round with a birdie on the par-4 closing hole.
"Rebecca is a tough, tough girl out on the course," said Trujillo. "She always wants to finish her round out with a bang and always, always wants to birdie the last hole. She fights to the bitter end. You've never seen a bigger fist punch than when Rebecca birdies a final hole.
"I was expecting her to be in our top five, but I didn't think she would slip past some of our veteran players. She has had a big shine about her all year and has stepped into a leadership role because of how she has been playing."
Hellbom and the Lobos advance to the NCAA Championships which begin Tuesday, May 19 at Caves Valley Golf Club outside Baltimore. She is the only freshman in the UNM fivesome that includes junior Jodi Ewart, junior Britney Choy, and seniors Mikaela Backstedt and Morgan Grantham. Only Ewart, the three-time Mountain West Conference Player of The Year, had a better regional score for the Lobos than Hellbom.
Hellbom's golf career began in Sweden when her father decided to take up the game. "I'm kind of a daddy's girl and I said, 'Daddy, I want to go, too.' I was about ten. We started at the same time. When I start something, I usually make up my mind to be good at it."
The singing talent actually was discovered earlier and even though the pipes can be trained, strengthened and developed, this is a gift that comes more naturally. Hellbom had her pipes at an early age. "I remember in kindergarden, I was maybe five, and my teacher kept telling me what a wonderful singer I was," she said. "In high school, people started telling me I probably could make a career out of singing."
Hellbom has worked on both of those talents. And although UNM has a respected music department, it was golf that brought Hellbom to New Mexico. She sent out some e-mails. She sent out some video. Trujillo liked what she saw and Hellbom made a recruiting trip to UNM.
TRIVIA: Lobo Rebecca Hellbom is right handed but hits a golf ball from the left side, a product of youth hockey when she used to fire a puck from the left side. The native of Sweden has sung opera in English, French, German and Italian.
Hellbom said after looking at what the Lobos had to offer, she cancelled her other two recruiting trips and signed up to be a Lobo. "I guess I was just lucky that they had a music school here," she said. "I really didn't want to study anything else."
Hellbom said she sometimes feels a little jitter on the course and on the stage, but singing in front of an audience is more demanding on the nerves. "I'm a bit more nervous singing. I think it's easier to control your body than your voice," she said. On the course, Trujillo says she sees a golfer very much in control of her game and her emotions.
"You watch Rebecca play and sometimes she is off the fairway 50 yards to the left or 50 yards to the right, but with Rebecca, you don't worry," said Trujillo. "She is a fighter. She has something in her gut that says never die."
Of course, girls being girls, Lobos being Lobos, and athletes being athletes, Hellbom's teammates like to throw some good-natured teasing at the UNM rookie. They sometimes dig at Hellbom over her laugh that at times borders on song.
"Her laugh can be a little musical," said Trujillo. "They like to tease her about it."
Said Hellbom: 'Sometimes I'll laugh and kind of be singing it out. To me, it sounds like an old lady's laugh. They'll tease me and try to make me laugh even more."
Hellbom says her plans at UNM are to work hard on both golf and singing and see which what presents the best opportunity. "I really don't know which way I'll go," she said. "I might have better potential in golf. I've had more education in golf. I guess it will come down to what I really like to do the most."
Editor's note: Richard Stevens is a former Associate Sports Editor and sports columnist for The Albuquerque Tribune. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Previous articles are available at The Richard Stevens Corner