News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Rub of the Green

October 10, 2010

BOB ARNETT: No matter what your level, watch out for pressure

TERRE HAUTE — What is the affliction that can affect most any golfer from those who can’t break an egg to skilled golfers who can break 70?

It’s pressure! T.V. watchers who tuned in to The Ryder Cup last weekend got a glimpse of some of the world’s best players dealing with more pressure than most anyone could imagine.

Pity poor Hunter Mahan who was battling to keep the Cup in the U.S. when he had the misfortune to stub a chip shot that helped the Europeans to notch their seventh win in the past nine Ryder Cup meetings.

All in all, it was great theatre with the tournament coming down to the last twosome. Mahan shouldn’t hang his head in despair for the next two years. He simply had the bad luck to be in the deciding match.

Any of his eleven teammates could have played a tad better and brought home an additional half point. That would have denied the Brits a half point and given the U.S. a tie, which in Ryder Cup parlance would have meant the U. S., would have retained the coveted cup.

It has always been difficult to figure out how a tie simply means the Ryder Cup goes to the previous winner. It would appear that sudden death would be a viable alternative.

Although the weatherman threatened to turn the event into a swim meet, everything turned out well except for the final score. I believe that the Americans did well when you consider the match favored the home team. After all, they get many opportunities to become adjusted to the intricacies of their familiar greens.

What is this thing called “pressure?” Well, it certainly translates into something called “nervousness.” And the ability to control those nerves is what separates champions from “also rans.”

Let’s look at some golfers have to say about this situation. No less a sage than Lee Trevino has always declared, “Pressure occurs when you play for $50 a hole with only $5 in your pocket.”

Jack Nicklaus has stated, “All athletes, when they get in pressure situations, don’t revert to mechanics, they revert to feel.”

Trevino says, “There is no such thing as natural touch, it’s something that must be learned by hitting millions of golf balls.”

Others have said that the more you win, the less trouble you will have with your nerves.

• • •

Golf is full of circular reasoning. Want to make more putts? You must have confidence. How do you gain confidence? Go out and make some putts. Want to rid yourself of a bad case of nerves? Go out and win some tournaments.

No one ever said that logic and golf are bedfellows. In fact, you might say that cow pasture pool is one crazy activity. I’d delve deeper into this subject, but I’ve got to make my tee time.

• • •

Congratulations are in order for North junior, Rachel Welker, for a sixth place finish in the IHSAA Girls’ Golf Finals.

Topping that is the fact that Welker is also a talented pole-vaulter for the Patriots. I can’t recall another golfer, male or female, who also excelled as a pole-vaulter. Many golfers of yesteryear would not even pick up a suitcase for fear of losing their “touch” on the golf course. It would seem that participating in a strenuous sport along with golf poses no problem for Rachel. Next year promises to be a banner season for the dedicated young lady.

• Tip of the week — If you are fighting those nerves which manifest themselves with sweaty palms, dry mouth, trembling hands and difficult breathing, you should take deep regular breaths using the diaphragm. Also drink plenty of fluids during your rounds. And don’t gamble for more than you can afford to lose. You might find yourself in a “pressure cooker.”

Keep your head down and your shoestrings tied. We’ll be back.

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