Mind games

Missouri golfers hope their visit to GolfPsych helps them achieve berth in 2004 national tournament
Thursday, May 6, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 2:02 p.m. CDT, Saturday, July 19, 2008

For Missouri, golf is more than mental. It’s psychological.

The Tigers are working to earn an unprecedented berth in the NCAA National Championships. To do so, they will have to place among the top eight at the 21-team NCAA Central Regional. The three-day regional begins today in Normal, Ill.

MU is seeded No. 8. For the Tigers, today is likely the most important of the tournament. The team’s first round averages 4.8 strokes more than its last.

“The stats don’t lie when your stroke average is a couple strokes higher in that first round,” coach Stephanie Cooper said. “We’re going to work on that mentally more so than anything.”

Tigers look for first national championship appearance

MU has never played in a national championship, but Cooper might have found the missing link.

“I kept thinking we’re missing something in our program, we’re missing something in getting that next step,” she said. “I thought, ‘Well, it’s probably between the ears.’ ”

To help the Tigers achieve a better mental game, Cooper took the team to GolfPsych for personality assessments. GolfPsych is based in Boerne, Texas, where the Tigers played in the Baylor Shootout on March 19-21. MU met with John Stabler, founder of GolfPsych, before the tournament. In the 18-team competition, MU climbed from a first-day fourth place to a second-place finish. The Tigers won their next tournament, the Indiana Invitational.

Psychological analysis boosts Tigers confidence

GolfPsych helped MU realize its mental trends.

“They send back a 50-page assessment of where our players stand with all that and then they went over it for two hours with us,” Cooper said. “You know, this is what happens to you; you’re highly anxious, you’re analytical, you’re suspicious. And then this is what happens to you on the golf course; you freak out when the winds pick up, when the weather changes you don’t like that. When you see some of those scenarios, you say, ‘Wow, that’s that player.’ ”

Cooper found she shares many traits with her golfers. The Tigers found two qualities running through the team, suspicion and apprehension.

“Apprehensive would be not having enough self-confidence, wanting someone to tell you, ‘Good job,’ ” Cooper said. “And we talked about that; confidence is huge in golf.”

GolfPsych works to identify what it says are traits of a championship golfer.

Mindy Bullard hit five of the traits of a champion golfer,” Cooper said.

Tigers hope to play with right mindset

Bullard said she found the analysis interesting.

“Our sport is so mental, it’s like 85 percent mental and only about 15 physical,” she said. “If you can go into a tournament with the right mindset and play it like a sane person, you’ll do better.”

Maria Ohlsson, who has MUs second-highest stroke average, 74.8, agreed.

“At the level we are at now, a lot of it is mental,” she said. “If you’re in a good mood and focused, you can play really good. If you’re kind of out there and not really focus you will not shoot a good score.”

Cooper said thinking ahead to nationals is an outcome goal GolfPsych wouldn’t want MU to do.

“The most important thing for us is to not think about nationals too much, is to think about regionals as a tournament and just playing good,” Ohlsson said.

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