Remember Vicky Hurst? She is the attractive LPGA star whose signature was her Ben Hogan-style cap. She was good enough that she made the 2011 Solheim Cup team as a captain’s pick after just three years on Tour. She had her second best money year in 2012 and then the wheels began to come up. She describes it as a time when serious injury and distracting coaching got the best of her.
But now, she’s back on the LPGA after going back down to the Symetra Tour last year and finishing 8th on the year. I stumbled across her on the range at the JTBC Founders Cup at the Desert Ridge Marriott in Phoenix, Arizona. I have a pretty good eye for the powerful economy of a tour-quality swing and Vicky’s was so good, I stood there and watched ball after ball for over thirty minutes.
I caught up with her the next day on her way for an after-lunch practice.
I write a daily golf mastery blog based on my nine-year experience as a Monday qualifier on the Champions Tour. I look at what goes on on the big Tours and then use the players transcripts to write empathetically about the ups and downs at the highest levels of the game from a mastery point of view.
So I was watching you hit balls yesterday for about half an hour yesterday and you have a really great swing.
Oh, thank you.
Nobody’s ever told you that before?
Well, yeah, but it’s always nice to hear [laughing].
I was just astounded because I’m working on some of the same things you’re working on in yours, you know, keeping that right elbow close to your body and getting that weight shift going right. And one of the things you don’t often see in a woman’s swing is that beautiful acceleration through the ball.
And just now looking for you, I made another pass at the range and I was looking at all of the swings, including Michelle’s, and yours just stands apart from all of them.
So you had all of those great years — you were on the Solheim Cup — and then down to the Symetra and back again. Can talk about that process a little and what it’s been like to get back out here?
Yeah. Well I think it’s definitely been a tough process. Anytime you get bumped down to a different level and have to work your way back up is always difficult for anybody.
But it takes a lot of courage to do that too.
Yeah. Um Mm. Definitely. So I think the main thing was just — even though I had a wrist injury and I was struggling with my swing — you know I worked a lot on my swing over the last couple of months so now I’m finally hitting — you know, the balls going where I want it to.
It worked! [Laughing]
Yeah [amused]. So now I look forward to this week, but yeah, you’re right. It takes a lot of courage and, you know, just to be able to wake up and be like, instead of giving up but to keep on going is why I’m out here.
As I watched her hitting balls the day before, an older woman suddenly came into the equation and began to coach Vicky in a sort of mystical way. She was so soft spoken I never heard a word she said. She seemed to just be communicating in small, well-understood motions and spine angles through the ball.
Who’s your coach and how did you find her?
Oh, that’s my mom.
Oh, that’s your mom! Oh you’re kidding! [Laughing in delight]
That’s my mom, yeah. [Laughing] And, you know, she’s seen my swing…
…every one of my swings for a long time. And maybe even though she may not be a top-100 swing instructor, she knows my swing better than anybody. So, I work with swing instructors, but she’s always been my coach, I guess.
Anybody in particular you’re working with? Or are you just…sampling.
Well, right now I’m kind of in between coaches, yeah, so right now, no. But I’ve worked with a few different people in the past that maybe gave me wrong advice, wrong swing things. Or maybe not necessarily wrong, but getting my focus in a certain area that kind of mislead on where it’s supposed to be…
I think we’ve all been there.
…yeah, yeah yeah. So right now in the last couple of weeks I’ve just been clearing my head and getting back to knowing how to swing the club like I know how to swing and not relying on a coach or an instructor for anything that I don’t already know, you know?
Right. So you’re at the point where you’ve stopped thinking about it?
Well that’s what I needed. You know, I was thinking about so many different things in my swing and working on a hundred different things and then, you know, my swing wasn’t getting any better. It was getting worse and worse…
Yeah. Because you probably bound up all of that natural athletic rhythm that you have.
Yeah. Exactly. So it’s only been a couple weeks since I’ve been like, “You know what? I’m just going to do it myself, trust myself.” And then, I’ve worked with a few people in the past that I do like. So I’ll probably end up going back to them. But right now, I’ve not been with anybody. Just pretty much trusting my own ability.
And playing freer now because you’re not thinking about it?
Yeah, I’ve just been simplifying my routine, my mental process and routine. So I’ve had coaches put ideas [in my head] and then you start thinking about things and, duh.
Can you talk a little bit about that mental process because that’s really right on point to what a mastery blog is all about.
Mental process? Well, when anybody out here is doing their best, they don’t have swing thoughts at all. It’s just kind of going out there and pulling the trigger and letting it happen.
But when you’re struggling, it’s pretty hard to do.
Right. Because you’re trying to fix it.
Trying to figure it out, you know?
Yeah, so now, pretty much right now…it’s down to my practice swings and my pre-shot routine is kind of where I’m putting my focus. You know, really getting to my right side…
Getting back to the other side.
…getting back through to the other side and that’s it. That’s it, it’s pretty simple. I’m not thinking about the clubface or where my plane should go or anything like this.
So is where is your mind during your swing? On your target or your swing?
Oh, it’s just on the shot in general. I don’t know [laughing]…
The shot to the target?
And that gets you out of thinking about your swing?
Yeah. I pretty much just do my pre-shot routine, my pre-shot swing and then I tee it up and let it go, you know?
How are you playing? Did you play in the pro-am today?
No. I didn’t play in the pro-am. Played a couple of practice rounds. Played pretty well. So I’m looking forward to this week.
I don’t know [as yet another complement] how you can’t play well with that swing. [Laughing]. And I’ve seen some swings.
[Laughing] Yeah, so. Still working on it. It’s getting a lot better.
Anything else you can think of from a mastery point of view in terms of how you’ve had to “be” with all of this? The weight of having to come down and be out there on Symetra? Were you just resigned to it? Was it an oppressive kind of thing? Was it motivating?
Uhhh, you know I think going back to the Symetra Tour, you know, maybe for the first two weeks, I was a little bummed. You know.
Because I played seven years on the LPGA and…but I got over that quickly. There’s a lot of good players on the Symetra Tour and sitting around bumming about getting bumped down doesn’t do any good…is not going to get me back out to the LPGA…
Because that wasn’t your job, right?
Yeah, exactly. So then I just made a decision that I had to shoot the scores. It’s not going to be given to me. I had to work really really hard last year. I did that. And I kept things simple and it was pretty simple once I got the ball rolling. And all of a sudden, I started playing better and better and then won a couple of times and, yeah, that’s what I plan on doing out here.
How’s your short game? I haven’t seen your putting or any of that. Is it as good as your swing?
Short game’s good, yeah. I had to improve my short game so much because I had wrist problems so I couldn’t even hit balls.
Yeah. I read that. What happened?
Oh, I had like little tear in one of the tendons and a couple cysts and just, overall, unhappy.
Yeah. [laughing] So.
Aside from that how did it go? [Laughing]
It’s better now. Yeah. It’s better now [laughing] But it’s still tough when you’re battling injury.
Is it healed up now? Does it still bother you?
Every once in a while it bothers me, but it’s a lot better now than it was before.
Okay. Listen. Thank you very much for taking so much time. You’re a great player and I look forward to your comeback.
People have got to see that swing.
[Laughing] Thank you.
I’m doing a radio segment tomorrow. I do a weekly twenty minute…
Yeah, it’s a drive time radio talk show called, “For the Love of the Game”…
…so we’ll probably be talking about you in the morning.
And once again, just a fabulous, fabulous swing. Good luck this week.
Classy young lady. I wondered why her swing hadn’t impressed me as much before? Probably because I’d never seen her in person…which is why you want to come out and see these great players in person. The human eye can see so much more than the frame-by-frame plodding of a television picture.