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Women’s golf brings mental skills up to speed

BY MAGGIE CUNNINGHAM | MARCH 03, 2011 7:20 AM

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Under pressure situations, the Iowa women’s golf team members rely on mental skills to stay focused and confident.

“Being strong mentally is important, because in Division-I golf, everyone can play well,” junior Chelsea Harris said. “So you have to do things to separate yourself from everyone else and work on things that other people may not give much attention to.”

Golf is largely based on mentality — and when a team is lacking in the mental aspect, its physical game can seriously diminish.

“Golf is about 90 percent mental and 10 percent skill,” sophomore Kristi Cardwell said. “If you lose 90 percent of your game, there will be no way to finish around to the potential you should be playing.”

That is why the team spends a half hour of every Wednesday practice with mental-skills coach Catherine Lucas-Carr to learn techniques for staying positive and confident.

During these sessions, the group does various exercises that help the team recognize its problems, analyze them, and then find solutions.

“[Lucas-Carr] will then give us advice on certain mental skills to practice,” Cardwell said. “My favorite that we work on is [called] ‘Here and Now.’ This works on focusing on what is happening in the present and forgetting about what had happened in the past.”

Course management is just one aspect of the mental game that the Hawkeyes are particularly struggling with. Club selection and deciding which shot to hit are significant parts of course management.

These were both major problems in the team’s trip to Kiawah Island, S.C., for its first tournament of the spring season last week.

After the first day of competition at the Edwin Watts/Kiawah Island Classic, head coach Kelly Crawford said the team had “too many mental mistakes” and the Hawkeyes needed to start making better decisions. Iowa had a disappointing finish: 23rd out of 33 teams.

“Right now, we are rusty,” Cardwell said. “Over winter break, I’m sure none of us practiced our mental skills, and now we need to get back into the routine of it. Once we begin to practice our mental skills again, we will all be back where we were in the fall and start to perform a lot better.”

The team is capable of continuing the successful streak that it saw in the fall if it can address that “rust.”

“We all have the physical skills to play great golf,” senior Laura Cilek said. “If we can improve our mental game and confidence, then we are going to have a lot of success.”

Being mentally strong can be especially beneficial for the Hawkeyes, who are hoping to make an impact in the Big Ten. Iowa hopes its incorporation of mental training into its practice schedule will allow it to improve faster than conference opponents.

“If we can block out negative thoughts and focus on positives and the shot we are about to hit, then it should be a successful spring,” Harris said. “Golf is mostly mental at this point, so to improve, everyone needs to learn how to control their minds on the course.”


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