For those that may not know, I moved on from playing professional golf back in 2010 after giving it a go for 8 years. It’s hard for many people to believe how little golf I play these days after over 20 years of playing competitively. I shared this story several years but it popped back up on my feed recently so I thought I would share it again with a few updates.

I was asked to play in a 27 hole 2 person team tournament for a big charity here in the upstate of SC. I was paired up with Ali Rogers, 2012 Miss SC, and 2013 Miss America Runner Up. She had played a little high school golf but was a big softball player. The format was 9 hole best ball and 9 hole captains’ choice before going in for lunch to be re-flighted and re-paired for a 9 hole alternate shot. Well to our surprise our -9 was 3 shots better than all the teams, which included some good players, all males of course. The buzz around lunch was how it was possible the two girls could play so well and blah, blah, blah. Unfortunately, the 9 hole alternate shot didn’t go so well for us and we ended up in last place in our flight. I did manage to have a hole in one, but sadly that was the only highlight of those 9 holes.

The point of sharing the story was to let the junior girls know that ‘I feel your pain” and it’s truly a “pain” that can only be felt when you’re actually in that moment. I had almost forgotten what it felt like to have pressure on the golf course and what expectations can quickly do to a good round. To know that the score I post will be looked at and judged by people. To know that something is on the line. It was a great learning lesson for me to remember what that felt like so I can better relate to what you as young girls are going through each time you tee it up. As I got ready to hit my first drive after we finished lunch I stood on the tee and rather than swinging freely, I swung with hesitation. I let thoughts of what was said at lunch and the fact that we could win the whole tournament and show all the guys up get in my head. I didn’t stay in my routine and focus on the process. It was such a strange feeling because I hadn’t felt nerves or pressure in a long time. I didn’t know how to push the thoughts out of my head, trust myself, and focus on the present. And this was just a charity outing with a bunch of amateurs, far from the pressure of playing when you think your future college golf career is on the line, or you have a team and coach counting on you to post a low score, or playing in a US Women’s Open.

But the one thing I learned was that if I was going to play golf under pressure that I had better get more comfortable with it. I couldn’t expect to step on the tee, with high expectations and nerves, if I hadn’t practiced or played under those conditions in several years.  The same goes for all of you junior golfers who have a good round going during a big tournament, just to see it slowly start to slip away. If you haven’t been in that position very often, or you don’t practice under conditions of high pressure, then you will struggle in those moments time and time again.

Two ways to get better that we will get into more detail over the next few articles:

  • Learn to practice under pressure instead of just going through the motions. Perform drills that have a consequence so you will feel a little extra pressure to sink a putt or hit a fairway before you can move on. Keep a good mix of more relaxed technical skills practice time with performance-based practice time that has expectations and pressure.
  • Also, continue to put yourself in a position to feel pressure on the golf course, and eventually, it will feel natural. Play against people who are better than you and put something on the line for who wins. Play tournaments where you have a chance to win and be in the lead group on the final day. Remind yourself that even times when you feel like you “fell apart” or “let nerves get the best of you” that you are actually getting better in those moments.