On the high school golf playoffs
This time of year is when the golf that matters in high school is played. A bit like the FedEx Cup (without the cash incentive), high school golfers play regional tournaments, sectional tournaments and ultimately the State Championship in the season finale. Players are eliminated at each level, leaving the cream of the crop to “go downstate.” Having been part of two extremely successful high school teams, and another that did not fare so well, here are some of my thoughts on approaching this vital time of the year.
Short game is vital. You cannot practice enough putts, chips and pitches. Almost inevitably, when a team or individual finish is on the line, a player will find themselves 5 to 20 yards from a green with an “up and down” needed for progress to the next level. Why not practice it? Work on these shots as if they were the difference between success and failure, but limit the time spent to a manageable amount. I encourage my students to practice a shot for about five minutes, then make the last three balls the ones that matter. Putting yourself under this type of pressure will pay dividends in the long run.
Allow yourself to make bad shots. In the recent Solheim Cup, Charley Hull, a 17-year old who recently turned pro, was asked how nervous she was playing a singles match against Paula Creamer, one of the best women players in the world. Her answer was honest and refreshing. “I wasn’t really nervous. It is just golf. It’s not like I am going to die if I hit a bad shot. I just hit the ball, go find it and hit it again.” She pretty much hit the nail on the head here. So you hit a bad shot. There is nothing now you can do about it so clear your mind, go find your ball and put 100 percent concentration into your next shot.
Try not to keep your score as you play. There is nothing worse to me than standing on the 16 th tee knowing if I par the last two holes I will shoot (insert personal record, under 80, under 70 and so on). Almost inevitably that results in a poor finish and disappointment. My own experience with this is when I took my playing ability test for PGA membership. I finished my 36 th hole not knowing whether I had passed or not but knowing I was definitely close. Finding out I had beaten the target score by two after making double bogey on the last hole was a great feeling. If you need to keep score, reduce your round to six three-hole rounds and start a new “round” every fourth tee. Celebrate successful “rounds” and put bad ones behind you.
More playing tips next week.
Ian Grant is a PGA teaching professional and a member of the teaching faculty of the PGA of America. He can be contacted at Oak Brook Golf Club 630-990-3032 in the summer and White Pines Golf Dome in Bensenville 630-422-1060 in the winter. You can contact Ian directly at 708-917-8951, or at Iansgolf@aol.com.