June 24, 2011
By Jon Cooper
A golfer could drive himself crazy trying to hit the perfect shot.
Seth Reeves knows. For the longest time, that’s what he did.
He’d compound the issue by dwelling on that missed or not perfect shot, affecting ensuing shots. Before he knew it, qualifying rounds would spiral out of control and he’d wind up out of contention.
That wasn’t the way to crack a lineup like Georgia Tech’s, which won its third straight ACC championship and featured five nationally ranked players.
“Some of that was probably why I didn’t play very well,” said the Duluth native, who ranked as high No. 2 in Georgia as a junior player. “I wanted to play in a tournament so bad and be a part of this program that I tried too hard during qualifying and beat myself up and got upset with myself when I didn’t play well in qualifying.
“There were many times that despite not playing that well I was still able to be around the lead or close to it through the first few rounds of qualifying to still go to the tournament. But I would hit a bad shot or something and that would be the end of it.”
Heading into this summer, Reeves chose to put an end to that behavior disposition and start cutting himself some slack. He had a career-low and tournament-lead-tying round of 66 at the Grub Mart Collegiate to build on and advice from his father, Mark, who had led him to the game at age 7, for the final piece to the mental puzzle. The advice came just before he started playing in last weekend’s Southeastern Amateur, played at the Country Club of Columbus.
“I’ve always been a perfectionist, especially with golf,” he said. “My dad gave me some advice about the results part of golf. If I hit a bad shot, I can’t condemn myself. So I really focused on that.”
That focus paid off when Reeves took home a three-shot victory at the Southeastern.
A key to the victory, and what may turn out to be a defining moment of his career, came when he stepped up to the ninth tee. Sepp Straka, a University of Georgia signee, had cut what had been Reeves’ four-shot lead to one shot.
“Things were going [Straka’s] way the first eight holes and the first eight holes, I played well, but nothing went my way,” he remembered. “I burned some edges and got some bad breaks.”
If ever there was a time to beat himself up and send his round careening over the cliff it was now. Instead, he chose a different course.
Reeves, who prides himself on his length and accuracy off the tee, did what he does best. He hit his tee shot 350 yards, to within 30 yards of the hole, and birdied the par-4 hole. On 10, a 348-yard par-4, he hit within six feet of the hole off the tee and again birdied. Instead of overheating, he’d stayed the cool and cruised home.
“I told myself, ‘Just keep doing what you’re doing,'” he said. “On nine, I hit a really great drive and made birdie, then 10, I probably hit the shot of the tournament, driving on a 350-yard par four. I was able to go birdie-birdie and then par a really hard hole. Where the other guys made bogie and that kind of pulled me ahead to where I didn’t have to do anything super-special coming in. That was really the special part of the final round for me was those three holes.”
The victory, clinched on Father’s Day, made a nice Father’s Day present.
“[Father’s Day] hadn’t really crossed my mind until the tournament was over,” he said. “But it was nice and I acknowledged [Mark] in my speech at the end. No one really knows all the stuff that he does and all the work he puts in just for me. I was glad I could thank him and do something for him to show how much he means to me.”
Georgia Tech golf head coach Bruce Heppler was glad to see his lanky lefty — Reeves stands 6-3 — put the mental part of his game together with the physical and sees potentially big things ahead.
“Hopefully Seth is going to believe in himself,” said Heppler. “I think he’s learned that it’s a 72-hole tournament. It’s not a two-hole tournament or a three-hole tournament. In any round he’s talented enough that he can get back into any tournament if he gets behind or can stay ahead. I think that was a big moment for him.
“It’s not the physical part of the game that is going to stop him. It’s the mental part,” he added. “To win a pretty prestigious amateur event like the Southeastern, hopefully that does things for his confidence. I think most of his challenges are how he sees himself. Once he realizes how good he is I think he has a chance to have a really good career for us.”
Reeves is looking to build on his triumph in Columbus at this weekend’s Greystone Invitational, taking place in Birmingham, Ala., where he’s competing with teammates Bo Andrews and Anders Albertson. (It’s a busy weekend for Georgia Tech Golf, as James White and Richy Werenski are playing in the Northeast Amateur at the Wannamoisett Country Club in Rumford, R.I., with recently graduated Jackets Kyle Scott, Paul Haley and John-Tyler Griffin.)
Reeves’ next step is to contribute to Georgia Tech.
“I know that I have talent to really help this program out for the rest of the time that I’m here,” he said. “I’m looking forward to it now that I’ve kind of realized that golf is just a game. Before it was life or death. I’ve got a better perspective. With that relaxed attitude, I’ll be able to have better results and hopefully play a lot next year and help the team out.”