Lydia Ko is the number one ranked player in the world at just 18 years of age. She’s ranked number one in the Race to the CME Globe and she has racked up 7 LPGA Tour victories so far in her fledgling career. She seems to have a very even keel way about her from tee to green and appears to just go with the flow each and every round. Interestingly enough, she was recently quoted as saying that she does get nervous, even when playing a round with club members.
It’s obvious she has game, but it’s nice to hear that she gets nervous too! We all think that the tour players have ice in their veins and they play with nerves of steel. You never see them “sweating it out” or doing any deep breathing exercises on the tee, certainly not while watching it on a telecast. Trust me, everyone has some amount of nerves when the pressure is on or it’s the first tee shot of the round.
There’s a common saying out there that having butterflies is not a bad thing…as long as they’re all flying in the same direction! So how do you get them to fly in the same direction? One of the things Lydia commented on was “keeping to her game plan.” This, along with a very solid pre-shot routine, will help calm the nerves.
You can start to gain better control over your nerves by incorporating a solid, repeatable pre-shot routine to your shot making. Often times what I hear from new golfers is that they feel they’re not good enough to do a routine. They’re afraid that by doing a pre-shot routine, they’ll give the impression that they are better than they really are. When I hear this, I am reminded of the time a friend and I were paired up with two men at a public course in upstate New York. I can’t remember the course, but I absolutely remember one of the gentleman we played with. He was a charming and very engaging fellow in his mid-forties playing with his good friend that day. It was a fairly busy day so we had to go as a foursome. My friend was a new golfer so we were going to play together from the same tees that day, the guys were playing from tees just a bit further back. We introduced ourselves to one another, made small talk on the tee then we were signaled to go. To paint the picture…the charming fellow we’ll call Tony was dressed to the nines! He looked like he had just walked out of a GQ Magazine that was the “stylish golf clothing” issue. He had shoes to match the outfit, a Greg Norman style hat, new bag with his name on it…the works! He looked like a former tour player for sure!
Now etiquette would warrant that the furthest from the hole play first, but the charming man from NY insisted we have the honors of the first tee. It was about a 15 yard difference from the tee markers so we were happy to stroll up to the tee and fire away. The walk was helpful in allowing time for the butterflies to get together in formation and to take some nice deep breaths for the tee shots. My friend did her pre-shot routine and hit a decent shot off the tee. Now, just like everyone, I too get nervous on the first tee and am very happy to breathe and settle in to my pre-shot routine. A good tee shot off and we both stroll back to Tony, who because of his GQ style and confident presence, we believe is going shoot 68 today and consider going back out on tour! Of course Tony insists that his friend go first…obviously saving the best for last! His friend hits a good one down the middle. Tony gets up on the tee…puts the tee in the ground and does a “tour perfect” pre-shot routine. A final glance down the fairway eyeing his target and he’s ready to swing.
Tony pulls the club back, stops at the top and proceeded to almost swing out of his shoes! Luckily, his club just nicked the ball enough to send it rolling past tee box, over the cart path and into the rough. Tony, still holding his finish, turns his head toward us and said, “but don’t I look good?” “You thought I was going bomb it down there, didn’t you?” He went on to tell us how he was brand new at golf but he was going to look like he new what he was doing. He was taking lessons and he loved it and he had a fantastic pre-shot routine. He did say that it was his favorite part!
I’ll never forget that round of golf and meeting Tony the GQ beginner from NY. He had a great attitude and had fun when he played. I’m sure after all these years he’s not only a better golfer, but he is wearing the golf trends of today! Although I’m not sure I can see him wearing Ricky Fowler orange and a flat billed hat.