Wednesday, May 24, 2017

The Suffering Inherent in the Game of Golf

Golf is a tough game.  Anyone who has to post a score in public understands this fact.  It is one of the few places that doesn't hand out participation ribbons to kids.  Poor play results in high scores.  Great play results in low scores.  There is no fluking a golf score.

This week, a player played beautiful golf for 52 holes of a 54 hole event.  On the 53rd hole, the wheels came off and the player made a big number which resulted in losing the event.  By this time of the event, people watching were talking about the beauty of the play and the inevitability of the win.  A friend called me to lament that player's pain and suffering.  My answer to her seemed cold when I said, "that's golf."

The golf course played tough for the entire 54 holes and many other great players in the field had made big numbers previously.  Their mistakes didn't happen as close to the end, but had the same effect; the mistakes kept them from winning.  Where the mistake is made really doesn't matter, but what does matter is the player's reaction and action going forward.  After the round, a player's responsibility is to look at what happened and why.  What was lacking, what could have been avoided, what can be done next time?  The goal is to be better the next time you reach the 53rd hole.  How can you bring resolve and readiness into it instead of bad memories?  The answer is to face up to what happened without emotion.  That might take a bit of time, but at some point, that is the next step.  How you respond to suffering is determined by your values.  Your values are like muscles for life.  They power you and keep you strong no matter what happens.  Developing your values is more important than developing your tee shots.  Strong values will hold you up when your tee shot goes astray and you have to score from the deep rough.

If at every step of your golf career or life you can step back from suffering and lean on what's important to you, you'll be okay.  It might be faith or family.  It might simply be resilience or the ability to learn.  You create and tell your story through your actions and reactions and the basis of your story comes from what you value.  Life doesn't end with disappointment or failure.  It goes on.  Golf as a reflection of life is the same.

The values we teach our players can't be based on comparisons, trophies won or image.  We have to dig deep and build a foundation based on respect for the process and the game, the ability to be at peace as a person, the knowledge that our preparation was enough, the camaraderie and friendships that we build and the ways that competition challenges us and our values so we can continue to grow.  The thing about golf is you never really "have it".  That's how golf reflects life the most to me.  Every day, you simply do your best and at the end lay your head on your pillow to get up and do it again.  As coaches and parents, we have to let our players know that their best is enough and that the effort put forth was well worth it.  If we do, there will be a time to shine.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

A Nod to PXG

Yesterday, we spent the day in the practice area at Trinity Forest Golf Club.  That isn't unusual, but what we did all day was a bit unusual.  PXG flew Joel Kribel in to work with the Women's Golf Team and get our returning athletes fitted for new PXG clubs.  He was awesome and meticulous in getting the right equipment into our players' hands.  That also might not seem unusual, but in all my years of coaching women's golf, it's an honor my teams haven't been afforded prior to now.  I'm very impressed with the commitment that Bob Parsons is making to women's golf and I want to thank him for serving us in the same way he is serving our men's team.  We plan to honor his support by playing great golf with his clubs!

Today, our men's team returners will go through their fittings and order their new equipment.  In my 25 years of coaching, I've seen this happen a lot.  I've been on the range when other major equipment brands sent their guy out to get the men's team equipped while we watched from the other end of the range.  It was an absolute joy to take part in this activity this year.  Thanks Mr. Parsons!

My first job in golf was in 1975 pulling carts out and scrubbing the floor of the bar at Bunker Hill Muni in my hometown.  I joined the PGA in 1983 and when I went to School 1 as it used to be called, I was one of 2 women in a room of 100 guys.  I've never really worried about what I was getting and what I wasn't getting as a female in the business.  Instead, I worked hard and focused on doing a great job.  If you want to shine as a minority in an industry, you can't spend time on what isn't happening.  As a coach of collegiate women, I've done the same.  While it would've been great for us to get all that the guys have gotten over the years, we've consistently gotten more.  We've gotten a better budget, better access to great facilities and better gear.  My goal has been to fight for more for my team since day one and we've made progress at both programs I've headed.  If I would have spent time focusing on what I didn't have, what wasn't happening or comparing our programs to others, we wouldn't have grown.  That lesson was taught to me early as a female in the golf profession.  No one can take away your great attitude, your hard work or your achievements, so staying focused on those things will bring results.

Now, Dave Von Ins and I are lucky enough to team with Jason Enloe and Chris Parra on our men's side, who are true team players.  They make sure we are included and equal in all that happens in SMU Golf, as does the Chair of the Payne Stewart Cup, Ron Spears.  Add to their inclusiveness our new relationship with PXG, who've honored our team and other women's teams around the country with equal treatment and respect.  Thank you Bob Parsons for setting the bar high in the industry in so many ways!  SMU Women's Golf greatly appreciates it!  Now, let's go make some birdies!






Thursday, May 11, 2017

Regionals Breakdown

After returning from NCAA Regionals last night, my mind was working on what seemed to be a lot of upsets occurring.  For that reason, I sat down today and plugged in a bunch of numbers.  Here are some of my unscientific conclusions after doing so.

  • We have a great deal of parity in NCAA Women's Golf
    • Of the 24 top ranked teams in the nation, only 13 will be competing at NCAA's
      • That means that 37% of the top seeded teams didn't advance
        • Does that bring up questions of the validity of our rankings?
        • Does course set up and weather at regionals differ greatly from regular season play?
    • The average ranking of the 24 teams at NCAA's is 21
    • The median ranking of the 24 teams at NCAA's is 17
    • Nine teams ranked from 24 to 50 made it to the NCAA Finals
  • The parity doesn't extend past the top 50
    • Only two teams ranked over 50 finished in the top halves of the four regional fields
    • One team ranked over 50 qualified
      • That team had a mid-year addition. That lead to an average of 27.5 shots better in the spring than the fall per tournament.  
        • One player can make a difference in women's golf
        • 9 shots a round points to more than one player making a difference
  • Rankings seem most valid in the Big Ten
    • 83% of the ranked teams at Regionals made it through to the finals.
  • Rankings seem least valid in Non-power 5 schools and SEC
    • Only 27% of the ranked Non-power 5 schools made it through to the finals
    • Only 38% of the ranked SEC schools made it through to the finals.
  • The NCAA did a decent job of splitting up the schools
    • The lowest median ranking of teams was in Lubbock at 28
    • The highest median ranking of teams was in Columbus with 24
      • Columbus had one fewer top 50 team than the other three regional sites
    • The other two regional sites both had median rankings of 26
    • The average ranking (28) of the teams advancing  from Athens was actually higher than the average ranking (27) of the ranked teams not advancing.
      • This anomaly is due to both the rise of Michigan State and the fall of Wake Forest
      • It is still a remarkable fact!
  • Five of the 12 individual qualifiers were ranked outside the top 100 players in the nation
  • Four of the 12 individual qualifiers were playing as individuals at the regional tournament

Here's the link to my spreadsheet with breakdowns that I chose to include.  Make your own conclusions and feel free to comment.  Some final points: In the "old days", we used to sit in a room and look at the data and put teams into fields based on the information we had.  If that had happened this year, would the rankings be more valid?  Michigan State, Wake Forest, Clemson and Washington all had remarkably different spring seasons than their fall seasons.  When a committee made the choices instead of a horseshoe placement by ranking, this would have been taken into account.  The horseshoe by ranking also doesn't seem to allow for regional considerations, which made for some very expensive travel for many teams.

It's hard to know what to think of all of this, but I do know that all but 24 teams are ending their seasons a few weeks earlier than they would have liked.  When you love your team as much as we did ours this year, that makes it a painful ending.  At the end of the year, every shot counts.  It is a cliche, but it is the truest one ever.  Most of the time, if your team simply plays to it's average, you will advance.  However, the end of the year comes with a tough academic schedule (finals), the need for good team chemistry and the need for healthy players.  Our goal for next year will be to fight for each shot from day one so that is the habit instead of something we talk about in post-season.  That is a mindset goal that the best teams have, along with the goal of getting better each day.  When you have great people and players to coach, you want that extra few weeks to spend with them; learning, competing and laughing.



Effort or Process?

Imagine you live in an old house.  The windows are sticky and heavy.  You go into your room to open the window and get some fresh air.  You ...