COLUMBIA — A great team motto inspires athletes and makes them crave something more than just a personal goal.
The Notre Dame football team’s “Play Like A Champion Today” phrase has become much more than just an assortment of words. The slogan challenges players to live up to the lofty expectations that have been set by past great players.
So when you first hear it, the motto for the Hickman girls golf team seems far below the standard set by the Fighting Irish. But if you ask the golfers, the phrase “Stay neutral” works just as well for them.
Patricia De Castro, a junior, says that coach Hannah Wren reiterates the phrase to make sure the players stay focused. If a player hits a bad shot, you need to move on, but the motto also applies after a good shot.
“If you hit a good shot, you can feel really happy about it, but there’s always another shot coming up,” De Castro said.
Other members of the Kewpies, including junior Erika Barrett and sophomore Claire McDonald, use “staying neutral” as a reminder on the course and during practice.
But not all players take the phrase literally.
Junior Laura Rowe takes her coach’s advice and applies it to herself. According to her, it's important to be cognizant of what you’re doing right and wrong on the course and to take things “hole by hole.”
“If you forget all the shots you’ve had before, you’re not really focusing on what’s happening now,” Rowe said.
Rowe also says Wren urges her players to focus on their individual games and the “team thing” will just fall into place.
According to McDonald, Wren splits the team up during practice in order to avoid too much socializing when they should be working on improving their game. During tournaments, Barrett says Wren even collects cellphones beforehand, so that no outside message can disrupt a player’s focus.
De Castro doesn’t let anything ruin her focus. She kicks herself when she hits a bad shot, but she knows it is important to keep her head up.
De Castro finished in the top-10 at the 19-team Smith-Cotton Classic on Monday, shooting an 81. Rowe tied for fifth with a score of 79.
Wren's motto has her players zoned-in on improving their game and playing solid mental golf. Rowe says she is able to maintain focus because she is prepared for anything after playing so much competitive golf.
“I know what’s going to be out there,” Rowe said. “I know what’s coming. There aren’t any surprises when it comes to golf.”