Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Match Play

JP, our senior leader, points at the scoreboard as the team poses for a quick picture.

Let me start off by saying, I wasn't in favor of our sport changing its championship to a match play format.  It seemed crazy to me to play one format all year long (stroke play) and then when it counts the most, switch to a different way of competing (match play).  I've changed my mind.

A par on the 18th hole secured a 1 up victory for Lindsey McCurdy, who birdied 17 to earn the hole.  The team celebrated it's win on the green!

This weekend, we traveled to the University of Michigan for the East-West Match Play Championship along with UC Davis, Michigan, Ohio State, Wisconsin, Miami, Iowa and Purdue.  We played 36 holes of stroke play.  I saw improvement over our first outing, but we still had a lot of room for improvement in many areas.  We squeaked into the Championship bracket by one shot, over a Miami team that had a scorecard mistake that cost them the spot.  It wasn't the route we envisioned, but from that point, we never looked back.  We COMPETED.  

Lindsey McCurdy sent us all this video on the night before the final round.  It was a perfect mindset for us.  Thanks Apollo!  I love what you have going on in that head and heart!

In my mind, the definition of competition on the course is to be completely into the shot at hand.  Competitors do their best with what they have with no thought of how they got there.  Match play is the perfect place to use that approach.  You can make a double bogey and step to the next hole with the chance to win it.  You understand that any shot can go in and change the momentum of the game.  You are continually offered a clean slate!  All of this is true in stroke play also, but it isn't always evident when you are in the heat of a round.  True competitors get it and become champions, whether playing match or stroke play.

The team accepts the trophies.  From r to l: Coach Dave Von Ins, Coach Jeanne Sutherland, Junior Alexandra Rossi, Senior Jennifer Park, Sophomore Katie Page, Sophomore Lindsey McCurdy, Junior Jenny Haglund, Sophomore Alexandria Celli

We also learned the importance of simply giving ourselves a chance.  We did that in a number of ways.  We got our shots and putts to the hole and played more aggressively than we have this fall.  We focused on what we wanted instead of what we didn't want.  We hung around in each match despite getting down early and plugged away until we could turn the tide.  All of these things are also important teaching points to championship golf, but so much easier to see in match play.  Giving yourself a chance also means that you don't beat yourself.  There is no shame in getting beaten by a good opponent who plays a great game.  There is, however, no sense in beating yourself in match play through a bad attitude, a thought pattern that isn't focused on the shot at hand or failing to believe you are up to the task.  That might be the most important thing that match play teaches you.

These ladies don't need caffeine!  They wake up ready to go with spirit and enthusiasm.

Finally, we had a blast!  We took a lighthearted attitude that focused on fun and togetherness.  It started in the morning with some positive tunes and parking lot football (our thing) and continued through the day with fist pumps, hollas across the fairways and birdie dances.  And this is why I've changed my mind about match play.  It brought out the best in the TEAM.  It is all about the TEAM.  Every Mustang fought for the TEAM.  Each and every player was important to the TEAM.

On Rickie Fowler's new haircut for the Ryder Cup matches:  “I thought it was great. I thought it was terrific. It brings a spirit, a light spirit to the team.”  Tom Watson

 The USA Ryder Cup team is in good hands.  Tom Watson gets it!  He is embracing a fun and spirited approach to the competition.  You play the best with a seriousness about the shot, but not about yourself. 

Off we go into more events.  We will continue to work on all the stuff we learned in Michigan and probably relearn it a few more times.  We will continue to improve at our FMF (our edge!) until we are able to access what we have more often and enjoy a high quality of silence on the golf course.  We will continue to put the team first and have a blast!

By the way, college golf is unique in that it provides camaraderie within competition.  One of my favorite parts of my jobs is getting to know the players on other teams.  There are so many great kids playing college golf and their easy smiles and dedication to the sport really lift me up.  Here is a great example of that camaraderie.  I asked Ohio State player, Rio Watanabe to take some pictures when we went up to receive our trophy and I got some great shots.  Not just us receiving our trophy, but of the entire Ohio State team having fun, too.  I love it!

We also get treated wonderfully when we are on the road.  Michigan fed us and offered us a chance to see the Big House.  They also provided the opportunity to play golf on a GREAT track, Radrick Farms.  Last week, we had the same hospitality at Minnesota when we ate wonderful meals, played one of the finest courses in the nation at Minikahda and met the sponsors, Land O Lakes.  Basically, what I'm saying is, I'm grateful to have a job that allows me to make friends, mentor young people, travel to wonderful places, work with motivated and talented golfers, continue to learn and grow and make a decent living.  Now all of you have a glimpse into the by-product of our hours and hours of practice.  Every drop of sweat is well worth it!

The entrance to the Big House from the player's locker room.

Right guard: Katie Page, Center: Jenny Haglund, Left Guard: Alex Rossi, Left Tackle: Lindsey McCurdy, QB: Jennifer Park, Halfback: Alex Celli

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