Suzann Pettersen: Wisdom From a Happy Woman

Almost a year ago, I wrote a piece about how Suzann Pettersen was beginning to relax a little on the golf course. “Suzann Pettersen: The Ice Queen Has Melted a Little,” detailed her thoughts and interactions with her great friend, Yani Tseng, as they came down the last few holes at the 2012 Sunrise LPGA Taiwan Championship.

Suzann won the event, but she had her hands full trying to manage Yani’s congratulatory ebullience:

Yani is like, great job this week.  I wish I could have given you more of a battle.  I’m like, I’m not done yet.  I mean I got two shots and one is over water.  I can hit it in the water.  I’m like, Yani, I can’t listen to you.  And she’s like, great job.  I just wish I could have given you more of a fight.

With that win, she learned that she didn’t have to deny a part of herself in order to play at her best. It might be possible that she could enjoy her friendship and still be fully expressed as a great champion.

Sunday she used some of that wisdom to win the LPGA Tour’s new, fifth major, the Evian Championship at the Evian Resort Golf Club in Evian-les-Bains, France. She won by two strokes over the phenomenal, 16-year-old amateur, Lydia Ko. In her media session afterward, she shared some of the things going on in her life that made this possible. 

Over the last year, that full expression of herself extended to giving herself to causes and getting together with other players to do so. The act of “disappearing yourself” in service to others is a powerful emotional experience. And it also suggests a practical way to access a freeing mind state in which to play golf. In the same way that people become the only things in your consciousness when you are helping them, so too the golf becomes the only thing in your consciousness when you disappear yourself:

It’s been such a great month, five weeks for me, starting off with the Solheim. I mean, the feelings during the Solheim never really get old. We had a fantastic team. It was kind of a great But kick start for what became probably the month of my career, I would probably say so.

I played fantastic the following week where Lydia [Ko] won. Then I won in Portland right around the corner from Nike. Then I had my own event last week.

I must say, just giving back and helping other causes and getting together with players, I think as much as a fantastical story it is, it actually gives you a different perspective as well.

I think it’s part of how relaxed that I’ve been all week. I’ve been pretty much on my best behavior all week on the course, and it really pays off.

But she is also becoming quite grounded in experiencing the feelings of big time championship golf. She knows that you have to see your goal to get there, but you also have to be able to be at peace with the feelings once do. Her goal is to be No. 1:

I think this is just a part of the process. You got to win tournaments; you got to win majors.

With that in mind, this feels pretty natural. If that’s where I want to go, I got to get used to the feel of winning tournaments and delivering under pressure. That’s what I practice for. That’s why I wake up every morning.

I think hopefully this can kick start my action towards No. 1. Inbee [Park] kicked off a pretty fantastic year winning this tournament last year; hopefully I can feed off that and do the same.

Another attribute of highly conscious people and great champions is gratitude. Gratitude for their skills, gratitude that they get to play a game for a living and gratitude for the people that it brings into their lives:

I just feel very fortunate to do what I do. I’ve had my hurdles through the years. I feel great. I’m healthy. I have a fantastic group around me who are constantly pushing me to become a better person, a better player. I think both feed off for me on the golf course.

I feel like I’ve been a lot more relaxed on the golf course, around the game, over the last year or so. I try to smile and enjoy myself as much as I’m very tense and really want to win.

But none of this is possible until you are able to see the truth about yourself. And that most frequently comes from our interactions with others. In Suzann’s case, it was about learning the need to “chill out” and enjoy herself:

Well, a lot of people have tried to tell me this for years. I guess you can only take action when you first realize and you kind of don’t know. It’s a maturing process, I think.

I don’t know. I’m just in a very good, happy spot in life right now. I have nothing to worry about. Everyone around me is very supportive. My family is all great.

I must say, I feel like I’ve come to this age where I’m too old to be around and not be happy. I know you guys don’t see me smile that much, but you’ve probably seen a few more smiles than in the past.

I’m working on it.

And the process that she uses to “work on it” is to look for the hurdles in life and then deal with them honestly:

This year I’ve had one disaster where I missed the cut in the U S. Open. At the same time, that was almost a wake up call for me. I had to see where the hurdle was. I had to look at my game. It was a question of being honest. I couldn’t lie.

For me, it was definitely the putting. It’s been a part I’ve been trying to improve, and it’s nice when it pays off that quickly. Coming down the stretch I feel more and more comfortable. If I want to be the best player in the world, I got to get used to being in this situation.

She has finally gotten to that place in life where we come to see life as a process, a process made easier by dealing with its hurdles happily. As the old saying goes, “Life’s too short.”

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