Mindset remains on par with expectations

Overcoming the mental challenges of the sport continues to be a focal point for the Rutgers women’s golf team as it prepares for the Lehigh Invitational on Oct. 20 and 21 in Bethlehem, Pa.

After three tournaments in their fall campaign, the Scarlet Knights have developed a firm understanding of golf’s psychological hurdles and how they can affect their play.

“Golf is very, very mental,” said senior co-captain Brittany Weddell. “Some of the things we go over are not getting down on yourself during the [tournament] round if you have a bad hole. … [Staying] in the present moment is a big [theme].”

But with experience and growing pains, the Knights have come to realize that staying there is easier said than done.

“It’s really easy to get ahead of yourself and start thinking, ‘Oh, I’m this many over [par], or this many under [par],’ and start kind of freaking out,” said sophomore Kortnie Maxoutopoulis.

Weddell knows the Knights cannot dwell on past struggles and allow themselves to negatively impact future performances.

“We say, ‘Be your own cheerleader,’” she said. “You want to be supporting yourself through the round. You don’t want to be too hard on yourself. If you just hit a bad shot, you want to forget about that, move on and hit a good shot — focus on what you have to do next.”

As the team looks to its future and not its past, the Knights also remember to not put too much emphasis or pressure on any upcoming moment in a tournament.

“[We focus on] really just not putting a lot of importance on a certain shot,” Maxoutopoulis said, “and instead just doing the best you can on it, but not really worrying about it or putting extra pressure that shouldn’t necessarily be there.”

The team also stresses believing in physical skills as a golfer.

Sports psychologist Dr. Bob Rotella provided the Knights with tips to build a foundation and incorporate into their games.

“We have all these little taglines we focus on from Bob Rotella,” Maxoutopoulis said. “Believing in your abilities, knowing that you have the potential to play, not comparing your talent to other people, believing that you have the best talent you can possibly have.”

Weddell believes the freshmen handled mental guidance well, and it showed at the Rutgers Invitational, where the Knights’ third and fourth leading scorers were freshmen.

“I think we’re really coming together as a team,” she said. “We’re mentally focused. [The freshmen] are focusing on what they need to work on in practice, and they’re going to be really confident going into the last two tournaments.”

The Knights continue preparations for the Lehigh Invitational, where Rutgers took third place last fall.

Both Weddell and Maxoutopoulis are familiar with the features and gimmicks of the Saucon Valley Country Club course where the tournament is held.

“I remember there’s a lot of thick rough,” Maxoutopoulis said. “So we have to prepare for that. At the golf course here the rough is a little bit different, a little more spread out in different areas.”

The Knights have three more range sessions and two course practice days before they travel to Bethlehem for a practice round at the invitational.

“Individually, we all know what our weaknesses are,” Weddell said. “I think if we just focus on what we need to work on individually it’ll all come together when we get to the Lehigh course.”

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