Iowa women’s golfer Klara Wildhaber battling driver problems

The sophomore was hitting the club so poorly that she took it out of her bag during the Badger Invitational.


Chris Werner, Sports Reporter

In her own words, Iowa women’s golfer Klara Wildhaber “couldn’t get the ball off the tee,” with her driver.

Wildhaber fired a career-worst 9-over-par 81 in the opening round of the Badger Invitational in mid-September and was so unhappy with her performance with her driver that she took it out of her bag for the final two rounds of the event.

She didn’t even want to look at her driver, much less try to swing it.

Hitting her 5-wood off almost every par 4 and par 5 tee, Wildhaber played the final 36 holes of the Badger Invitational 5-over-par, carding rounds of 75 and 74.

“I really have an issue with my driver at the moment, like a real issue,” Wildhaber told The Daily Iowan Sept. 23. “It’s never been a club I ever struggled with. Hitting fairways has never been something I had to think about. And I literally can’t get the driver off the tee. So, I left the driver in the hotel room for the last two days. Literally, you can laugh about it because it actually is funny.”

The sophomore from Switzerland said that she also had some problems with her driver at the Dick McGuire Invitational in Albuquerque, New Mexico Sept. 13-14.

“I already was struggling with my driver in New Mexico,” Wildhaber said. “And then we had like a two-day turnaround, and I was like, ‘I can’t really work on my swing right now.’ So, I was just like, ‘Let’s hope my rhythm’s better or whatever,’ but it wasn’t.”

Eventually, Wildhaber got the break she desperately needed. Wildhaber had from the end of the Badger Invitational Sept. 21 to the start of the Ron Moore Intercollegiate Oct. 8 to work on her driver swing.

The near-three-week hiatus provided time for Iowa to enlist third-party help for Wildhaber.

RELATED: Iowa women’s golf finishes ninth at Ron Moore Intercollegiate

The Hawkeyes brought Chris Zambri, a consultant at Decade Golf, to Iowa City to meet with Wildhaber. Decade Golf is a company that helps golfers track their stats on the course.

Zambri observed Iowa’s Sept. 21 practice at Finkbine Golf Course at the request of Hawkeye head coach Megan Menzel.

Zambri, a former University of Southern California head men’s golf coach and current volunteer assistant with the Pepperdine men’s golf program, watched Wildhaber play part of a practice round. He then worked with her on the driving range to help her correct some of the problems she’s had off the tee.

Wildhaber’s swing coach in Switzerland can only see her swing in videos from the driving range. So, Zambri provided Wildhaber with some much-needed instruction based on what he saw from her on the course.

“I think having someone giving me a pat on the back, because like, I’ve been crying on the phone to my coach going, ‘I just feel so far away from where I’m supposed to be,’ and this guy just made me realize that I’m actually way closer than it seems.” Wildhaber said. “And so, it was nice, just getting a pat on the back saying, ‘You’re going in the right direction. It’s a simple fix. It’s just no one has told you what’s been going on, and this is what’s going on and this is what you need to work on.’

“Obviously, it’s not going to be fixed from one day to the next,” Wildhaber added. “But it’s amazing having just like a clear picture again.”

Wildhaber said she wasn’t squaring her clubface at impact. She was hitting the ball with a closed clubface, causing her to hit big hooks off the tee.

Zambri and Wildhaber worked on fixing her clubface and swing plane to produce more consistent shots.

“I have to have way more awareness when I’m on the course and feeling a little anxious,” Wildhaber said. “You know, taking maybe two or three practice swings with my new swing because I’m very quick to not take any practice swings and to step up to the ball and rip it. I think it’s one, the awareness, and two, just grinding.”