Byline: Patrick Mason
But the large crowds and big stage of the actual tournament made Campbell think about everything but his golf game, as he put too much pressure on himself, and didn’t play the way he wanted to. “Those two rounds, I shot a 90-90,” Campbell said of his 18-over each day. “The crowd and the realization that this was the state meet just got to me.” There was a par-5 that particularly stuck out, and still bothers him even as he prepares for a new season, his eyes scanning the Emerald Hill course Thursday. He carded an 11 on the hole. He knew it was mostly mental, but didn’t know how to get out of the rut.
Once the season ended, Campbell’s father bought him a book. It was titled, “Don’t Choke” written by golf legend Gary Player. Campbell knew that his skill allowed him to go out and have good rounds, but when he started to lose it on the course, he wasn’t mentally tough enough to battle through the hardships and rebound, leading to the high scores. Campbell read the entire book, which was filled with tips on how to perform in pressure situations. He enjoyed the read so much that he took to the internet and scoured its depths, in order to find passages from other golfers on how they handle pressure situations at majors and other tournaments. “I read a lot, so many books and stories about the mental game,” the senior left-handed golfer said. “Some from Phil Mickelson and some other guys.
That’s always been my struggle, the mental aspect of it.” Campbell, as one of two returning players from last year’s ninth-place state run with teammate Ryan Hurley, hopes to take those tips and his newfound mental toughness to the course this season, as Sterling will try to return to the state’s biggest stage. Hurley, likely the Golden Warriors’ top golfer, is expecting a strong year from Campbell and himself, and the two hope to lead a young group to state as seniors. At the varsity level, there isn’t a lot for strong players to learn swing-wise, and the two Golden Warriors seniors know that being able to be mentally strong and rebound from a tough hole will be the key to making another deep playoff run in a season that is more like a sprint than anything else.
Practice began Wednesday, and the postseason rounds begin in early October, leaving little time to work out any shortcomings. “Most of it’s mental and trusting yourself and your swing,” said Hurley, who carded a score in the low 30s during Wednesday’s practice. “There is no reason that all of the guys shouldn’t be under 45 all the time. It’s just between the ears. “Your swing can get more consistent, but just having the mental stability to push through is what it’s about. Especially when you’re playing well, if you think about not messing up, then that’s when it all falls apart.” The two have played in numerous tournaments over the summer months in hopes to be in mid-season form by the start of the season.
Hurley hit a lot of range balls over the summer and worked heavily on his short-game, often putting buckets of balls. Campbell worked on playing by himself. The senior said that he would always play better when a teammate was in his group, as he felt more relaxed.
But once tournaments and state came along, everything became serious, and he didn’t have that teammate to joke with as a pressure-release valve during the downtime. “The big one for me is to play good by myself,” he said. “When I focus and get serious, that’s when it gets to me, those bad holes. I’ve taken a big step this year in trying to relax and have fun.” Hurley’s improved short game and leader-of-the-team attitude, along with Campbell’s improved mental game, will be on display when Sterling opens its season against Rock Island Aug. 25 at its home course, Emerald Hill. Rock Island, usually a Class 3A team, will be a good early test for the Golden Warriors, who have high hopes for this season. “They have always been a strong team,” Sterling coach C.J. Wade said of Rock Island. “But we have the advantage of Emerald Hill, which is tricky to play.” The season also hopes to be a showcase for Hurley, who has aspirations of playing golf in college next season. “Knowing that I’m looking to play golf in college,” Hurley said, “I know this will be an important year for me. “You just have to keep level and work hard and take advantage of the things you can do to get better, and hopefully it all pays off.”
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