For a good round, take chances and manage nerves on the final day

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

First off, I'd like to give a big congratulations to junior Luke Brotherton from Greencastle for qualifying for the state tournament as an individual. It is really an exciting thing and a huge accomplishment, and I hope our community finds time to wish him luck at some point during or afterwards to tell him good job.

I qualified and competed in the state tournament this fall and have probably felt some of the same emotions that Luke has been experiencing recently. Excitement. Nerves. Pride. Anticipation.

To Luke: Going to the state finals tournament brings about many feelings. Most are conflicting, just like your mind will be when you hit that first tee shot to begin your day. The range session may not have gone as planned (in my case, it generally doesn't) but the best thing to do when that happens is step back, take a deep breath, make yourself hit one good shot ... and leave.

You don't have a swing issue, you know exactly what you are doing and you deserve to be there. Your nerves are just getting to your head but trust me when I say, you will be fine.

My first day of state, I shot a 78. Was it wonderful? No. I mishit shots, I missed putts and every now and then, I managed the course poorly.

My tee shot on the first hole, I walked up and tried to guide my ball to the middle of the fairway and there it lie ... in the upper section of a fairway bunker on the right, exactly where it belonged.

And I mean that, I should have hit it in the bunker. Why? Because for that swing, I let the nerves win and the worst thing you can do on the course is try to "guide" a swing.

From then on, I let myself just hit it. My second shot on that hole, played from the fairway bunker, is still one of my best shots I remember myself hitting to date (well, that and the same exact shot I was left with the second day for doing the same exact thing).

My best advice is to be confident and even a little bit cocky.

I don't mean you have to walk around like a jerk who thinks he owns the place, but walk around like you know you should be there. The best thing about state is that "this is it." There is no more qualifying for anything beyond that, which should be a sense of relief.

And yes, you could go out thinking, "Well, I made it here, now I have to try and be in at least top three." Or instead, go out and play your game.

The second day is something you should go into with a mindset based on how you played the first day. If you are somewhere outside the top 20, like Luke is (he's tied for 42nd at four-over), then you should take a couple chances, especially if they have a high risk-reward (taking a chance because, if it turns out, it will put you in a really good position for an opportunity to score at a really good hole).

He should try to jump up a few places.

Golfers in the top 10 shouldn't always take the chances. It is better to keep it in the fairway and hit greens because you are going to make putts that will occasionally be for birdie.

Taking your chance at birdie from the middle of the green is better than it is chipping from somewhere around the green because you tried to do something fancy.

But for Luke, the best advice I was given and can give to someone is this:

Have fun and relax (cliché as that may be, there is truly nothing you need to remember more than that). You made it this far and truly have nothing to lose because after this, there is no "next thing." Don't let your head get in the way of your swing and don't let your swing get in the way of your mind.

That means don't psych yourself out so much to where you don't allow yourself to swing and don't let one mishit shot psych yourself into thinking you don't know how to play. It will be a vicious cycle, I can promise you that.

Good luck today, Luke!

You can follow him online for live scoring here.

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