Dori Carter: Popup Player at the Kia Classic

Dori Carter shot a course record 64 on the Aviara Golf Club in Carlsbad, California, in the second round of the Kia Classic. That got her to 10-under par and a 2-shot lead over Stacy Lewis and Cristie Kerr. Lizette Salas was a shot back of them in 4th. Behind them, the leaderboard is packed with high-end talent.

What Carter did was no mean feat. She shot 64, but you should see her card. She shot 64 with three bogeys! Making 11 birdies on that track is not easy; just ask the other ladies.

They had her going over her birdies in the media center and that conversation began with her state of mind:

Yeah.  It’s good to think about it now.  At the time you’re just kind of like what’s going on? 

Someone injected that she probably wasn’t even thinking about it, she was just paying attention to one shot at a time, right?

Yeah.  That’s how you have to play this game.  I mean everybody says it, and it’s the truth and it’s easier said than done.

But this time, she was so deep inside it, the whole thing became a blur. Back in the real world, she couldn’t even remember the first hole.

I’m trying to think of the first hole.  I don’t even know.

By the time she was playing the 10th hole, she was relaxed and all was right with the world:

10, I was in a good spot, par‑5, about just under 20 feet probably, just left below the hole, another putt I could just kind of go with and had a good read, and this is when everything starts feeling blurred, this moment.  And I’m relaxed.  You’d think you kind of start getting tense after the front nine, but I just had this nice calmness over me today.

This altered state of consciousness is that sweet spot where everything slows down and is easy. It’s like you have a gauzy cocoon around you where you have your own little world even though you are in the world. And the thought to come out of it never occurs to you.

She finished by making bogey on 17 and 18, but even that didn’t yank her out of cocoon:

All these thoughts have been coming in my head.  You can’t stop them sometimes.  You just have these thoughts coming in your head well before the 17th tee box or 17th hole.  And for some reason today I was able to control them a little bit and block them out of the way.

17, I didn’t have a good lie.  I didn’t have a good shot.  I didn’t keep the ball in the fairway, and that’s penalizing here.  But I saw the scoreboard on 17 and realized that, you know, I kind of thought people today would go pretty low.  I mean I thought I was playing well, but I’m sure you’ll be interviewing someone this afternoon.  I just kind of had that feeling.  And then I saw the scoreboard and thought, you know, I’m actually doing better than I thought, you know.  And I was like, uh, um.  Okay.

And actually, 17 was just — I should have made a par there.  There’s no doubt.  That’s a par‑5.  I should have made a par.  18 is [just] a tough hole.

She attributes much of this mind-state to an overall strategy her coach [Gale Peterson] and sports psychologist [Dr. Bhrett McCabe] helped her formulate:

Well, it’s just kind of a thought process of trying to get into position, you know, every round, no matter how many — no matter where you are, where you stand, if you’re 8‑under, if you’re 2‑under, if you’re 8-over, like to try to get yourself in position [for birdie] a third of the time, you know, or half the time.  You know, inside 20 feet.

And trying to get in within five shots of the lead on the weekend, you know, 30, 40 percent of the tournaments.  It’s just like a big‑picture thing, and it’s helped me not put so much pressure on myself for one round or one tournament.

It’s little goals that lead to the big goal kind of thing.  But yeah, it’s just what works for me out here.  And it probably wouldn’t work for everybody, but it works for me so far and it’s kept me kind of just in my own process, not what’s happening around me.

In her fourth year, this came out of nowhere. She is exempt into all 144-player fields, but that’s only gotten her into 2 tournaments this year, the Bahamas and the Australian Open. Because she’s the kind of player who needs to play competitive rounds, she drops in on the Symetra Tour when she doesn’t get in the LPGA event. She played three after Australia:

I’m category 16, which I get in all the full‑field events, 144.  I didn’t get into last week.  That was a setback a little bit, because I normally would get into Phoenix, but they limit that to 132 because of the daylight, I think.  So I was like third or fourth alternate for that event.

So I flew from Phoenix.  I did the Monday qualifier, flew from Phoenix to Florida, played in a Symetra event last week and I flew back here.

I finished tied for 24th, but that was, you know, I’m a person that needs to play a lot, and I think that probably is why I played okay today, I played well today is just being able to constantly play instead of taking the week and practicing all week, you know.

And flying cross‑country is nothing anymore.  You just get on the plane.

So Dori Carter has to go up on the Popup Player list. She is a young player with just enough success to keep her trying for four years, but this round was beyond what that record would suggest is possible.

It’s a good thing that players like Carter learn to take the best from their histories, but stay focused on what they know is possible for them; learn from them but not be bound by them.

It’s inspiring to us all. And, looking back, no doubt to Carter too.

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