Moving From Abstraction To Reality

Today is the first day of the first major on the LPGA Tour, the Kraft Nabisco Championship in Rancho Mirage (Palm Springs), California. Played at the Mission Hills Country Club, Dinah Shore Tournament Course, it’s a very big deal, for no other reason than the affection the Tour has for the late namesake of the tournament, Dinah Shore. Although these days, people have taken to calling it the “Kraft.”

So it has been a cauldron of anticipation for the players, for some beginning at the start of the season when they looked ahead to this first big milestone of the year. As each tournament ticked by, it brought them closer and closer to this week. And as this week ticked by, it brought them closer and closer to this morning’s tee time.

In some ways, it’s a little like Christmas morning when they were a little kid and just couldn’t wait to open their presents. They went through all the preceding days with Thursday being an abstraction of all their hopes and dreams. They imagine it all. What would the weather be like? Always a factor in Palm Springs, how much wind would there be? How would the course be set up? They already know from their practice rounds that the rough is not as severe as it usually is.

So as they got into town…as they went to the course that first morning…as they hit their first practice shots on the range…as they played their first practice round…as they repaired to the range afterward with their first bits of intelligence from the course…as they played in the pro-am…and as they hit their last balls on the range last night…all of their attention was on their first tee time this morning.

The morning wave goes off at 7:00 AM and the Golf Channel picks up their coverage at 9:00 AM (Pacific) for three hours. The Tour has done a good job of distributing any number of the stars into these morning’s times; there are ample reasons to watch: Ryann O’Toole, Angela Stanford, Brittany Lincicome, Ai Miyazato, Morgan Pressel, Lexi Thompson, Paige Mackenzie, Cristie Kerr, Karrie Webb and Sophie Gustafson to name the most prominent. And there are another handful of players who’ve made an impression already, but aren’t quite in that star category. The afternoon wave goes off at 12:30 and will be in tomorrow’s broadcast window.

And as their week ticked by, most of their attention was on what they were doing in the moment, but there was always a partition dedicated to this moment. With each day, that partition grew larger and larger; it was the target, the goal, the prize. But still it was an abstraction.

And it was because of this partitioning in the brain that the nervousness grew. It grew because of fear welling up over how that thing in the future would work out. Will I play well? Will my swing be there? Can I win? Will I win?

The players who have been around for a while have been through this before. They know how to manage it. You’ve heard them talk about it all the time, “I just need to stay in the moment and play one shot at a time. I can’t do anything about what’s happening in the future, I can only control what’s happening right now.”

And even then, the best of them know that they can’t really “control” it, that trying to control it introduces tension and tension is the death knell of a golf swing…or anything else for that matter. They know that they just need to “allow” it. They know that they just need to allow all of their reps on the range and course to come to the fore by themselves while they just pay attention to the things that order it all: fascination with their target and the shape of the shot they want to hit to it.

And once those first couple of shots are under their belt and their trust in themselves has been vindicated, the fascination grows deeper and the scores go lower. When it comes more slowly, the best of them know that they just need to trust themselves and wait it out. They’ve done it before. That’s why they’re the best.

It will be a grand morning for the player who leaves all the circumstantial stuff behind…and just plays.

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