Kjartansson leading Tiger golfers

April 21, 2001|By TIM YANNI, Sports Writer

If one were to say the Imperial Valley has almost nothing in common with Iceland, that person would be correct.

The climates are different, the terrain is different, and according to Imperial golfer Kjartan Kjartansson, the golf is different.

Kjartansson, a 16-year-old senior exchange student from Gardabaer, Iceland, said he has enjoyed being in Imperial County arriving in August.

"My first experience here was pretty hard," Kjartansson said. "I thought I was going to melt down."

"But I got used to it and I love being in the warm weather instead of the cold," he added.

If warm weather was the change he was looking for, Kjartansson came to the right place.

"I love it here because I can play golf all year long," Kjartansson said, adding in Iceland it is only possible to hit the links the three warmest months of the year.

"People say that Iceland looks like the moon," Kjartansson said.


He said there have been movies and television programs shot in Iceland using its terrain as the lunar surface.

"There are no big trees, either," Kjartansson said. "There are low bushes and lava rocks are used on the golf courses in place of trees."

Kjartansson said he likes the way people in the United States treat him.

"Americans are much more open," Kjartansson said. "Even if they don't know you, they come and say, ‘Hi.'"

Kjartansson began playing golf four years ago when he was introduced to the sport by a friend of his mother.

While attending a party at the friend's summer home, he played the small par-three hole set up in the yard.

He said he likes the sport because it is more individual than other sports.

"You are the only one to blame," Kjartansson said. "It's also mental, it's not just physical, and you have to control your temper."

Kjartansson said he is glad Imperial became his host school.

"It's a small school and it's easy to make friends," Kjartansson said.

He also said he likes the fact that classes are not as strenuous as in Iceland.

"In Iceland you can work hard and not do too well on a test and your grade suffers," he explained. "But here, you can earn credit other ways."

He said he likes interscholastic golf because he enjoys playing in the matches, and getting out of class early is an added bonus.

Kjartansson said he likes his team and he is glad to be a part of it.

"I've seen a lot of improvement," he said. "I think that's great."

He said on his application to be an exchange student, he indicated that he wanted to live in a warm climate.

"I wanted warm weather," Kjartansson said, laughing. "But the people in AFS overdid it."

"I thought living in the desert would be different," Kjartansson said. "But it's really not that bad."

He said people are amazed to learn his English is as good as it is, but he confessed his English was developed from watching movies and television.

"I learned English more from TV than I did from school," Kjartansson, whose native language is Icelandic, said, explaining movies in Iceland are in English with subtitles.

He has been playing competitive golf for just over two years.

"My dream is to become a golf pro," Kjartansson said. "But if not, I want to go into computer science and become a computer engineer.

"I want to finish school in Iceland and then come back to the U.S."

He said if he moves back to the U S., he would like to live in either San Diego or San Francisco after graduating from college.

His coach, Claire Carter, said she enjoys having Kjartansson on the team.

"He's been playing phenomenally well," Carter said. "I think he sets a standard by which the other golfers compare themselves."

She said Kjartansson works hard on the course and in the classroom.

"In addition to being a good golfer, he's a great student," Carter said.

Carter said she is confident about Kjartansson's future as a golfer.

"He has his work cut out for him," Carter said. "I think he has the interest and the intelligence, though. He's a pretty strong kid."

She said her team is glad to have Kjartansson as its No. 1 golfer and the team is working together better than several teams she has coached previously.

"They are very supportive of each other," Carter said. "This is one of the most competitive teams I've ever had."

Kjartansson will finish this year at Imperial High and return to Iceland in July, ending his 11-month stay in the Imperial Valley.

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