Posted Aug 12 2010, 06:59 AM by Cathy Erickson
I read somewhere that what makes a professional golfer better than the rest of the golfers out there is concentration. Somewhere in the depths of our brains we need to find that iron curtain and block out the rest of the world when we decide to tee it up in a match that means something. I recently found out that my curtain is in need of serious repair!
But I also found out that if you're not carrying around confidence in your golf bag it's like playing without your "go to" club.
Last week I played in a 2-day match play tournament. For as much as I love playing in scrambles and getting in a little competition amongst golf pals, tournament play is really out of my element. But having so much fun last year and getting the opportunity to play such a nice golf course with some really great gals were all the reasons I needed to sign up again this year.
I think I was seeded 6th and my first match ended up being against one of my new favorite golf friends, Deb. Crap. After being teammates in a few scrambles this summer, the idea of being "opponents" was strange. And a quick look at the pairings made me realize that there wasn't anyone I really wanted to play against! So somewhere between my complete lack of confidence and my jittery nerves I had to find some composure to at least not make a fool of myself on the golf course.
My queasy stomach was eased somewhat by playing with 3 of the nicest women I know, but my lack of course knowledge, coupled with greens faster than my sidewalk, made every shot seem much harder than it was. At my home course I am on auto pilot when it comes to picking clubs and knowing yardages. Here I found myself trying to figure out how short I needed to hit it or where I needed to be just to avoid disaster.
I was given one piece of advice before the tourney...you don't want to go over the greens. I found it hilarious that my very first hole I ended up in the bunker behind the green. That wasn't my plan! I felt uncomfortable but was able to keep up with Deb. I squeaked out a win in my first 9-hole match and then I was up against one of my favorite golf (and curling!) friends, Norma.
I can say without a doubt that Norma is a better player than I am, and her tournament experience is a definite advantage. During this match I had 2 holes where I can honestly say my head wasn't in the game...I don't know where it was, but I hit some seriously awful shots. I had my chances, but I didn't have the concentration or the confidence to think I could fight back.
This left me in the 3rd place match the next day which would be 18-holes. With the worst I could do being 4th place, at least I would finish better than my seeding. I was looking forward to playing again and hopefully I could remember some of the lessons from my first matches and give it my best shot. My optimistic thoughts faded when I learned about my competitor - a junior in college who was recruited to play golf and her parents own a golf course in Wisconsin. How do I compete with that? She was young, cute, had her name stitched on her golf bag and had a caddy. In my head I had already lost the match before I hit my first tee ball.
I'm frustrated now thinking of how negative I was then...I revised my goal, I just didn't want to lose before I got to the 15th hole. Gee, how confident is that? I was also nervous because we were paired with the Championship match and I immediately felt like I was way out of my league. I remember my hand shaking as I was teeing up my ball on the first hole but thankfully I hit it well. I even channeled the sage advice I had gotten and hit one less club and ended up on the front of the green. My opponent missed her birdie putt and I figured I better just lag one up to get my par, too...but then, it dropped.
I'm pretty sure the look on my face was priceless, along with everyone else...huh, I'm one up. It didn't take long for me to allow my nerves to get the best of me, but after 9 holes we were all square, with the lead bouncing back and forth a few times.
But just like the day before, I went brain dead on the back side. I was worried about missing shots instead of concentrating on making shots. My swing was getting quicker and some crummy shots were sneaking in. But the funny thing was, my putter wasn't going to let this match end without a fight. I made 2 great par saving putts after hacking it up and found myself 2 down with 2 to play. It was now win the hole or go home.
The 17th is a par-3 with a tricky green. I hit an absolutely horrible 8-iron that somehow stayed on the green and I had an uphill putt. My opponent had a 40 footer that was a quick left to right slider - she gave it a run but ended up below the hole about 9 ft. away.
My only real option was to try to make this putt and for a moment I thought I had! It ended up 6 inches short. After giving me my par, all my opponent had to do was drain hers for the match. I fully expected her to and when it ended up on the right edge of the hole it dawned on me that we had to play 18.
By this time there were people following our group because the Championship match was tied going to 18 as well. I was nervous enough just playing with these 3 phenomenal golfers, but now I'm worried about more people witnessing some awful shot I may pull off.
I did what I usually do when I'm nervous...I pulled my drive left. It wasn't awful but it wasn't great. As I was getting to my drive, all I kept thinking was, keep it short (the day before I hit short and my ball STILL went off the back!). My lie in the rough was a little fluffier than I thought and I ended up hitting it TOO short...ugh. My opponent hit short, too, but I could tell she was playing defensive because we tie the hole and she wins.
I was too far away to putt but with the pin on the front just a few paces on, I had to hit a delicate chip or I would roll way past...what looked at first like a good shot soon ended up about 20 feet past the hole (I should have putted like they did at the British Open!!) My opponent lagged, but definitely left it farther than she wanted. I had to make my putt and hope for a miss to extend the match.
I thought I knew what this putt would do, but I completely misjudged the downhill slope...my ball didn't even have time to wave at the hole as it sped past 10 feet. I was still away. I knew then even if I made mine she could 2 putt to tie me and win. I wasn't sure if I should just concede the match then or not...so I asked her what she wanted to do and she said she'd like to putt out - I missed (again)...and my opponent lipped out, too - but we shook hands and I applauded her victory.
I learned some great lessons that day. You are only as good as you let yourself be, and you'll never win if don't let yourself believe that you can. The icing on the tournament cake was seeing great golf friends, having lots of laughs, and finding out that golf continues to teach some great life lessons.
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Filed under: confidence, match play, birdie, Cathy Erickson, opponents, concentration
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