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Distractions at practice have helped Hawkeyes to build mental strength

BY COURTNEY BAUMANN | OCTOBER 01, 2014 5:00 AM

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Bobby Jones, the designer of Augusta National Golf Club and cofounder of the Masters, once said,  “Golf is a game that is played on a 5.5-inch course — the space between your ears.”

According to the Iowa women’s golf team, distractions such as the Marching Band and soccer games have helped to ease the difficulty of that course.

The lively sounds seem to have slowly grown on the team; members said they were an unwelcomed distraction just three weeks ago.  However, the previously annoying sounds have helped to build mental strength for the Hawkeyes. 

“I think mentality plays pretty much 99.9 percent of golf,” junior Briana Midkiff said. “[A few weeks ago] I just wasn’t really in the right frame of mind, but now I’ve been playing well, and I feel like it’s night and day from what it was before. It’s weird that just your mentality can change everything.”

Nicole Rae also said mindset — including eliminating mental distractions — plays a large role in the game. 

“You could come out and have a great practice session on the range, and then start putting a lot of pressure on yourself, and kind of get in your own head, and then all the practice that you put in doesn’t really matter,” the senior said.

There have been different tools the Hawkeyes have used in order to block out distractions. Having a set pre-shot routine and a solid plan going into a round are important factors that head coach Megan Menzel tries to instill in her team.

Positive self-talk and confidence are also important for blocking out distractions.

“I really try to focus on positive things,” Rae said. “I think about a good hole that I had or a good shot that I had.”

As for the Marching Band and sporting events occurring near Finkbine, the team has used them to its benefit.

“It’s a really great advantage. With Tiger Woods, his dad used to yell during the middle of his backswing because he was like, ‘Hey you need to get used to it, you need to learn how to block things out,’ ” Midkiff said. “I think that [the noise] is a good tool for us.

“It’s so weird because golf is so mental, but when I’m sitting over a putt and they’re playing, I’m just so focused that I don’t even hear it anymore.”

Rae also noted the sounds of the band and soccer games, as well as those of people tailgating for Hawkeye football games, have helped her to practice focusing on single shots and block out outside factors. Because the noises have become so common to her, she is able to zone them out and no longer hears them when she is playing.

Menzel said the distractions serve to remind the players that they are on a college golf team.

“We’ve started to really like [the noise],” the fourth-year head coach said. “It’s kind of fun just to hear that energy, and it certainly reminds you that you’re a part of a bigger university, which I think is pretty cool.”

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


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