Veterans Phillips, Midkiff face mental challenges early on


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Six members of the Iowa women’s golf team competed in the Hawkeyes’ first completion of the season last weekend. Veterans Jessie Sindlinger, Amy Ihm, and Nicole Rae were featured in the lineup — however, the rest of the team looked different.

Three new faces — freshmen Elisa Suarez and Jessica Ip, as well as senior transfer Jessie Jordan, were present. That meant senior Shelby Phillips and junior Briana Midkiff — both of whom have played nearly every round throughout their Iowa careers — were left out of the lineup.

“Unfortunately Shelby and Brianna had a rough few rounds. I think it’s always tough when you come back and you’re trying to get in there,” Iowa head coach Megan Menzel said.

She said that the decisions for the first tournament of the season were based strictly on the five qualifying rounds played at the beginning of the season. She said this allows everyone to start out on the same foot so no one has an advantage.

Last season, Phillips led the Hawkeyes in scoring average, number of top-10 and -20 finishes, and rounds at or below par. She also had the lowest score of the season, carding a 67 at the opening tournament. Midkiff finished fourth on the team in scoring average in her first two years on campus.

Phillips had an illness for the first couple weeks of the season, which had a negative effect on her qualifying rounds. For both her and Midkiff, mentality seems to be the biggest issue.

“The biggest challenge of getting back into the lineup for me is mentality,” Midkiff said. “It’s a different dynamic when you get back to school, because in the summer you’re used to playing for yourself and individually, and when you get back to school you’re on a team.

“It’s kind of hard to decipher between the dynamic of golf being an individual sport and its being a team sport.”

Besides knowing the difference between the team and individual aspects of golf, there is also the challenge of moving forward from bad rounds in the past.

For Phillips especially, this has been an issue.

“I had a good year last year, but I ended it badly, so that’s been in my head,” Phillips said. “I’ve been really working on that with some mental-skills coaches. I’ve been trying to get better and stronger mentally.”

Midkiff also worked with a mental-skills coach over the summer.

“I played well when I was with him, so I just need to apply what I did with him to my game right now,” she said. “I know I have the skills, because I played great in the summer, so it’s all in the mindset.”

The Hawkeyes will travel to Ann Arbor, Michigan, for the East/West Match Play Challenge, beginning Saturday. The team will then have a two-week break until its next competition.

This is a good thing, Menzel said, because it will give the golfers time to go through qualifying once more and work their way into the lineup.

Both Phillips and Midkiff said that staying positive is key, which helps when the coach is positive as well.

“Coach Menzel told me that you can’t base how you play on other people,” Midkiff said. “If I went and shot a 72, and that was really good for me, and someone else went and shot a 71, that doesn’t make my 72 less significant. You can’t compare yourself with your teammates, you just have to play your game.”

Follow @cbomb12 on Twitter for news, updates, and analysis about the Iowa women’s golf team.

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